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2013 American Birkebeiner 50km Skate Race Report

By Ben Mullin

Well this is the big one. The one that got me to train more consistently for the last 9 months than anything in the last 15 years. The one that had me feverish for a whole week before hand. Yes, the 40th annual, and my first, American Birkebeiner.

As I started writing this race report I realized it had the potential to get a little long. I may still be a little delirious in my recovery from Birkie Fever, so I will do what I can to rein in the length.

Speaking of Birkie Fever, I knew what it was before, but I sure caught a strong case this year. At first I thought the infection occurred when I registered on the first day it was open, but when you register the day it opens, it seems likely to have occurred much before that. I don’t know if the first year is worse than others, but I kind of liked it, so an annual reoccurrence might not be a bad idea.

The week before hand consisted of waxing, talking waxing, talking weather, rereading sections of Beyond Birkie Fever, double checking Ben’s “Skis, Boots, Poles” checklist, waxing, packing, checking the weather… By Friday I made a token appearance at work, had a carbo-loading lunch with a friend, and skipped town.

Skis, Boots, Poles

I was staying with Ben Jonjak and a few other CyclovaXCers at Ben’s mom’s house in Spooner. What a great place to stay. This was Marva’s 26th Birkie and Ben’s 11th and all of the history and experience in that house was a great prelude to the next day. A few of us met at the house and carpooled the rest of the way to Hayward for the Expo, packet pickup, and a final carbo loading spaghetti feed at a local church. When we returned it was time to set out all of the gear for the next day and debate wake-up call and departure times. The answer is 4:00 and 5:00 respectively.

Ready to roll

I opted to park at the Donnellan lot in Hayward while everyone else continued on to Como. I was on the very first bus out of Hayward a little before 6:00 and was at Telemark about 6:30. Plenty of time no matter what wave you are in.

The CyclovaXC corner in Telemark is a great place to hang out before heading down to the start line. There were upwards of 15 of us through there at various times. All of the first bumping, hand shaking, back slapping, trash talking, and good-lucking that goes along with such a good crowd was incredible.
CyclovaXC Corner

On to the race. Being my first, and having my qualifying race cancelled due to rain, the best I could do was talk my way into the 7th wave. Crunching a bunch of numbers beforehand (hey, I’m an engineer, it’s what I do) I knew I was going to be doing a lot of passing if I skied up to my expectations. Not a single person told me it was going to be easy to pass people so I resolved myself to just rolling with what came out on the course for the day.

Dallas and I lined up on the front line of wave 7, the timer counted down, the gun went off and the banner went up and we were off. Once passed the double pole zone and the timing cable it was time to start skating, and immediately I could tell it was going to be a soft day. Just on the flats right out of the start the snow was several inches deep. Just rolling with what comes I just settled into an easy V2 along with a couple of other people as we lead wave 7 towards the power lines.
Ben and Dallas ready to rock wave 7

As we started up the power lines we were already starting to pass people from wave 6. There was plenty of room on the power lines to pass and it was just easy going at that point. Passing through the mass of humanity that was the first aid station was a foreshadowing for the next 30km. For that next 30km I didn’t have more than a stretch of probably 30 seconds at a time where I wasn’t weaving, waiting, or dodging. Somewhere around 7.5km I came to the top of the first descent of any magnitude and found a mass of probably 30 people completely blocking the trail waiting for people to snowplow down the hill one at a time. I politely made my way through the crowd and promptly bombed the hill. The same thing happened again at Snowmobiler’s Hill.

All the way through OO was a matter of relaxing at the end of the conga lines on the hills, doing micro intervals at the tops of the hills, and zipping past people on the downhill and maybe passing one or two at the bottom of the next or snowplowing to a complete stop before starting up again.

Past OO things started loosening up a little bit. There were still plenty of people to pass, but the conga lines were much shorter or were only single file instead of double file. I did feel like quite the rock star at that point of the race though still feeling good, flying past people, doing a little jump skating to get around some people on the uphills and getting the occasional cheers for wave 7 (I finished 2nd out of the wave).

Somewhere around Mosquito Brook Road the micro intervals started adding up and I could tell I was tiring. I never cramped up, but I could feel my triceps, quads, and stomach bordering on full cramp mode. Bitch Hill isn’t so bad. The look of it sure invites terror though. After that point I honestly don’t remember much of the rest of the race. I wasn’t in death march V1 mode across the lake, still managing a slow V2. Some wave 8 person came past me and I hung on for a few hundred meters before letting them go. There was some people yelling and some cowbells on Main Street, and then I was done.

I collected my finisher's medal, changed, had some soup, talked to some people, cheered, talked a little more, and then headed back to Spooner for some pizza and beer celebration.

Post race pizza and beer celebration

Some more number crunching post race (hey, engineer remember) a few things stand out. First, I passed approximately 1300 Birkie skaters during the race. This does not count Korte skiers or Birkie classic skiers of which there were quite a few of the latter for sure. That is one person every 39 meters. That is a lot of people. Second, if they keep the same percent back for wave seeding next year, I missed qualifying for wave 2 by 45 seconds. I feel like I skied the best race I could, but to miss wave 2 by 45 seconds with all of that traffic is a little disappointing.

That small disappointment aside, what a great apex to the ski season. I’m still going to ski as long as I can, but the excitement is going to tail off as the weather warms up. A huge thank you to Ben and Frank for creating CyclovaXC. I have met so many awesome people that have become training partners and friends over the last year. So much for keeping this short…

The Ballad of Lone Wolf and the 2013 Birkie

Lone Wolf Winning his 2013 Birkie Entry
Early this season CyclovaXC was able to give away several Birkie entries courtesy of Seger Socks. One of our Cyclova athletes whom I like to refer to as "Lone Wolf" was in attendance.

"Put your name in the hat!" I cried at him.

"No!" Lone Wolf replied.

"C'mon, do it!"

"But I'm not a cross-country skiier!"

"DO IT!"

Well, needless to say, Lone Wolf threw his name in the hat and lo and behold, he won the entry. Thus began a whirlwind several weeks in which we had to teach him to ski well enough to compete in the largest, most intense cross-country ski race in the United States.

Now, physically I wasn't worried about Wolf at all. He likes to hammer running events at a 6 minute pace, so that wasn't going to be a problem. But cross-country skiing is one of those sports where you can work against yourself and expend a lot of energy without getting anywhere, and since we stuck him with the entry, I felt some responsibility to make sure he'd be ready for the event. So, we started taking Wolf out to Troll hollow on a regular basis.
There he is off to the right on his old pair of Evo touring skis and a pair of Addidas wind pants he probably bought at Target for $4. Looking at this picture, it's hard to believe that this is the same guy who would ski the Birkie about a month and a half later.

After our initial run or two out at Trollhollow, Wolf decided he needed some skating skis, so we set him up on a sweet pair of Fischers.

Within a couple weeks, Wolf was out at his first ever cross-country ski race: the 25 K Marine O'brien. Here's a photo he sent to me afterwards which I doctored up because our logo wasn't on it enough. You can see that Wolf graduated to racing in his cycling jersey at least.
Dallas (on the right) also did his first Birkie this year...and hammered of course.

Wolf threw down like a 1:45 at Marine O'Brien, which is on pace for an impressive 3:30 Birkie, but he called me up concerned.

"Man...I finished but I don't know about the Birkie...that was tough out there, I couldn't have made it another step."

My response was simple.

"If you were looking for somebody to talk you out of doing the Birkie you would have called up someone else. Subliminally you WANT to do the Birkie, that's why you called me."

I took a psychology class in college so that's how I new that little tidbit.

Wolf eventually recovered from his minor tremor, and on Birkie morning he was ready to go:
There he is proudly modeling his one non-Cyclova piece of attire--just to antagonize me.

Of course, sitting at Telemark hours before the Birkie is made up of a bunch of trash talking and joke telling. It's a fun nervous energy, but everybody keeps glancing at their watch and when the time came to put on the boots, everyone got suddenly serious. But nobody was more serious that Wolf. He gave Micah and I a look that seemed to say, "guys...I'm really not happy about the fact that you dragged me up here!"

As I headed out to race my own race, I was a little worried about whether or not we'd done enough to prepare Wolf for his first Birkie.

For those of you who raced you know that it was a tough, slow day for the Birkie. I was happy that the start temperature was in the 20's, but as I slogged through my own race, I wondered if Wolf was going to be out there for five or six hours of suffering.

However, on the bus ride up to Como, I got a call.

"Hey!" It was Wolf and the swagger was back in his voice.

"How'd it go?" I asked.

"4:13" he said, then he proceeded to tell me how he stopped several times throughout the course to hang out with the aid station workers.

Then, as if to further berate me for having the audacity to be concerned about whether or not he could handle the Birkie, he sent me this photo:
Yup...there he is taking shots off a ski in the middle of the race! I told him he couldn't do that until he'd completed his 21st Birkie (or at least until he'd reached his 21st time on skis...by our best estimation, the Birkie was only Wolf's 19th time on his skate skis)!

Well, it might seem like Wolf had the last laugh, but I had one final card to play. I was picking up some diapers at Wal-Mart when I passed by the photo center. I realized I had the above picture in my phone, so I printed it out and framed it up. The cherry on top was that I had Olympian and 4 time US Champion Leif Zimmermann present Wolf with the photo at our shop in the same place where Wolf had won his Birkie entry two months earlier.
Now...I was hoping Leif would scold Wolf for not taking the race seriously enough...but Leif seemed to approve of Wolf's methods.

So, with that picture, the story comes full circle! Congratulations Lone Wolf on your first Birkie! First of many I hope! And for those of you out there who need a little help to push yourself into doing amazing events like the American Birkebeiner...come on by to CyclovaXC and we'll help you out!

Come Ski With Leif Zimmermann at CyclovaXC Monday, Feb. 25th

Leif Zimmermann with Ben at the Expo (luckily Leif wore his "poofy" jacket to make me look thinner)
Hey Folks!

Last year I did the Inca trail with a couple of our Cyclova folks as well as US Olympian Leif Zimmermann. Leif has graciously agreed to come down to CyclovaXC Monday, Feb. 25th at 4 PM for a little social gathering and casual ski (we're all tired after the Birkie, so it's just going to be fun).

If you're interested in meeting Leif and hanging out for a little while, come to CyclovaXC in St. Croix Falls. Here's the address:

125 N. Washington St. 
St. Croix Falls, WI 54024

There is also a Google map you can enlarge if you scroll down this page.

We're going to be skiing at Big Rock Creek Farm, one of the most exciting new skiing areas in the Midwest. Normally a trail pass is $10, but I'll see if I can get that waived for this special event (although I can't guarantee that).

Hope to see lots of you tomorrow! Bring your CyclovaXC gear for the photos!

2013 Birkie: Turn it up to 11!

2013 marked my 11th Birkie, so my theme for the day was "Turn it up to 11!" (a reference to "This is Spinal Tap" for those of you who don't know--make sure to skip the ad if you click on that link). I was so delighted with this theme that I kept screaming it over and over to the point where it got super annoying...but even so, I'm sure everybody has forgotten about that already (which is why I'm bringing it up again now). Plus...if you just keep going with something it will get funny again, it goes funny, annoying, really funny: you just have to push through the "annoying" part (it's like seasoning).

Man, the best part about the Birkie is never the actual race, it's the whole lead up, having people hang around who are getting excited, riding the bus, etc. Actually doing the race is the least stressful part of the whole day.

I love waking up in a house filled with people on Birkie morning. It's as magical as Christmas to a 5 year old. Here we are at my mom's place in Spooner.
Since when am I the giant who towers over everyone? I guess it's because Frank Lundeen is not in this photo...you always look like the short guy standing next to him. Speaking of Frank, I think the store needs to be closed next Birkie Saturday so Frank can get his butt back in the race. Seriously...what were sales on Birkie Saturday? We need Frank up there.
We had our typical early morning battle over when we should leave Spooner and head up to Como. Mom wanted to leave at 4:30 and we wanted to leave at 5. We compromised, and left at 5, and we were like the second car in the parking lot. There's Micah standing in front of the empty lot.
Here's Micah on the way to the first bus. The first bus is awesome (like three people were already on board). When you make it to the bus, you pretty much know you're going to be able to ski the Birkie...it's sort of like finally taking your seat on the airplane: you've cleared traffic and security, and you're FINALLY on your way.
Final gear check...skis, boots, poles. There's a lot to remember on Birkie morning...but as long as you have those three things, you're golden (plus: bib, clothing, gloves, hat....).
Here's CyclovaXC corner right next to the wall of Champions. There were about three times as many Cyclovers there, but we couldn't get them all in one place (Birkie Fever you know). Jeff was styling his Riverbrook warm-up pants, which produced the fodder for my best quip of the day (which I won't repeat here...come ask about it at the shop MONDAY, FEB. 25 when we ski with Leif Zimmermann and I'll tell you). 
The dreaded toilet lines are less dreaded when it's 28 degrees. Can you spot the Cyclover in this photo?
Ready to roll! Turn it up to 11!
My last shot of the day, I was too tired to pull out my camera at the end. Man that was a tough Birkie, but you can't complain when there is snow and when it's 28 degrees.

Birkie weekend also represents the one time of year that Facebook is a useful tool. I'm loving all the pictures of Cyclova skiers in action I'm seeing everywhere. Check them out here (and like our page).

Here's an awesome picture of me from SkinnySki.com.
photo courtesy of skinnyski.com
I had to ditch my hat because I was overheating...but what I don't understand is why they keep making the bibs so much tighter every year?

Anyway, there are about a dozen more awesome stories to tell from the weekend, I'll be posting them this week. If you have some photos of Cyclovers skiing, please send them to bj@cyclovaxc.com!

We all really appreciate all the team support we received! Thanks to each and every one of you who was out there yelling "GO CYCLOVA!" --Micah received such a cheer from Birkie winner Caitlin Compton Gregg. Send me your photos and keep checking in for updates on the Monday ski with Leif and some other great Birkie stories!

Don't Forget to Salue Dave Landgraf's Statue at the Birkie

Here's a pic of the Dave Landgraf statue that appears on the final hill just before you descend onto Lake Hayward. The statue is about two feet tall, and it stands on a platform to bring the whole thing up to about 4 or 5 feet of height. On your way to Hayward, the statue will be on your right.

I've been making a point to salute the statue every time I go by it in a ski race. You don't have to stop (Dave would have never approved of that), but give the statue a quick nod and a flip of the hand when you see it. Someday I'd like to see an eternal wave of hands saluting the statue on that final hill before we all begin our sprint to the finish line.

Have a great race everyone! Hope to see you at Telemark and on the trails!

2013 Birkie Waxing: Detailed Analysis & Commentary

Main Street Hayward is now blanketed in beautiful snow & ready for all of you Birkie finishers!  Photo Credit:  Jim Kelley

Late February is always a hectic and fun time of year for xc skiers - both bitter and sweet!  This is certainly the sentiment of us here at Cyclova XC again this year.  It's been a really great winter for snow here in the St. Croix Valley, and we have absolutely perfect conditions everywhere - oh, and there is a race happening up in Hayward called the American Birkiebeiner.  

It's the big show, a chance to ski with 10,000 of your closest Nordic friends, the measuring stick by which xc skiers are measured!

With this phenomena known as the "Birkie" comes much ski selection and waxing anxiety for many event participants.  Back on Valentines Day, I published what I believe was the first wax tip for the 2013 American Birkiebeiner, and the wax tip hasn't changed a bit.  Following is a detailed discussion on why:  

WARNING / CAUTION:  The following is an extremely detailed & dorky commentary on ski prep methodology & reasoning for the 2013 American Birkiebeiner.  Read if you want to know what the factors that go into a professional waxer's creation of a wax tip for an event like the Birkie are...

Anticipated Conditions:  
Weather Patterns:  While many may disagree with me, generally speaking, I believe this time of year is remarkably predictable in terms of weather.  In the 15 years I've been professionally involved in doing wax tips, the Birkie wax tip has been almost identical in at least 11 of those years.  
Trail Conditions on Race Morning:  Generally, the track consists of a beautifully machined mix of new and old snow, likely with a dusting of new snow on top of the firm corduroy deck.  The trail will be beautifully machined by the fleet of (I believe 4 to be exact) Pisten Bully groomers at the Birkie.  The result is a firm corduroy skate lane with beautifully sculpted classic tracks - for the first thousand or so skiers.  The further back in the race you are, the more chewed up the trail will be and the less sharp the snow crystals will be.  The skiers up at the front will encounter sharp aggressive snow crystals, requiring a harder (colder) glide wax than skiers in later waves. Also consider that every single uphill on the course, is a north facing hill (meaning colder snow).
Weather:  It has been cold in Birkie country for some time - VERY COLD!  The beautifully compacted snow that Birkie skiers will be skiing over on Saturday will still be COLD.  Throughout the day on Friday and into the wee hours of the morning on Saturday, it's likely that 3-8 inches of snow will fall - but don't fret.  The previously mentioned fleet of Pisten Bully groomers will be out there tilling the new and old snow together, into a beautiful relatively firm skiing surface.  The snow is predicted to slow down in the early hours on Saturday morning, so there may be an inch or two of fresh snow on top of the corduroy.  In short, you can expect a beautiful winter snowscape for your skiing adventure through the northwoods.  While I trust the National Weather Service forecast more than any, if history repeats itself, the Friday overnight low will be lower than the forecasted low of 15 degrees, with a Saturday daytime high of 31 degrees.  I expect Friday overnight lows to be roughly 10 degrees, with a Saturday daytime high of about 30 degrees.  The sky will be cloudy, so temps will warm slowly throughout the day with a light northwest wind (tailwind).  

Cyclova XC team racer Jim Kelley out scouting out the Birkie race course.

Ski Selection:  Ski selection will be the single most important factor in having fast skis at this year's Birkie (as it always is).  First, your skis camber stiffness must fit you!  Second, the pressure distribution characteristics of your skis should be such that they are ideal for medium to softish trail conditions (not super stiff, and no hot spots).  If you have any questions about your skis, give us a call at Cyclova XC, or better yet, stop on by for a free quiver / ski analysis.

Healthy Ski Base / Appropriate Structure:  More important than wax, having a "healthy ski base", with appropriate structure is also critical.  If it's been more than a year since your skis have been stoneground, they probably aren't absorbing much of the wax you're ironing into them, and the ski bases probably aren't very flat (which makes it almost impossible to do a good job of waxing).  
 Stonegrinding your skis flattens your ski bases, and exposes a fresh / healthy new layer of base material which will absorb more wax in the first few layers you apply than the last 50 layers you likely have applied.  In short, a healthy ski base ensures you maximize the time and money you spend on waxing.  When your skis are stoneground, you can also choose a structure of your liking - with for the first few waves of the Birkie will be the Cold SuperFine Grind, while wave 4 and back will be best served by the Cold Universal grind.  If you haven't had a stonegrind recently on your skis and there is very little structure, I would recommend 1 pass with a fine interrupted type roller sturucture tool (such as the Toko or Holmenkol tool).  As always, if you have any questions on the condition of your ski base or structure, stop on by Cyclova XC for some expert advice!

Wax:  While wax is what gets all of the attention at the Birkie, it is less important than either ski fit/flex or having a healthy ski base - but it can still make a tremendous difference.  It's the final piece of the puzzle that will ensure you have lightning fast skis on your feet!  

As you look at the forecast, people naturally gravitate to the forecasted daytime high temperature (forecasted to be 31 degrees).  However, bear in mind that your skis will be gliding on snow - and the snow temp always lags behind air temperature.  The snow crystals will be sharper and colder than most people will expect.  Therefore, it's absolutely prudent to error on the cold side with glide wax - this is always the safe call.  This is precisely why we are not changing our published wax tip.  Bear in mind that a cold weather highly fluoriated glide wax will run very well in cold conditions, but will continue to run very well as conditions warm and humidity rises (thanks to the hydrophobic & dirt repelling fluorine in the wax).  Highly fluorinated cold weather wax is unquestionably the most versatile wax, with the biggest range out there - particularly when covered with a fluorocarbon top coat.  

Duane at Cyclova XC applying a flourocarbon overlay - a key to having optimal skis in the 2013 Birkie.

Feel free to give us at Cyclova XC a call to talk wax and ski prep - we'd love to talk with you!  We still have most every wax product in stock, not to mention much of our top end ski gear on closeout at 40% off!

Jim at the Birkie's High Point

Here you go folks! This is the high point of the Birkie trail and you hit it around KM 14! Keep that in mind as you're slowly climbing up those initial, difficult hills. Once you hit KM 14, it's all downhill to Hayward...seriously!

A Tale of Five Birkies

My first Birkie at age 19
I talk a lot of people into doing the Birkie, and I even wrote "Beyond Birkie Fever" about what a tremendous and life-changing event the race is. But it wasn't until the other day when I was looking through some old Birkie pictures that I realized what a transformation this race can provoke in a person.

I was putting together a presentation about what people can expect at the Birkie, and I decided to include a couple of my old race photos because one of our team guys felt like he might look "out of place." I figured the above photo would quell any of his concerns since most people don't do the Birkie in Khaki pants, a wool shirt, and a stocking cap they bought at Auto-Stop five minutes before the race started.

My first Birkie took me nearly 6 hours, and I was so exhausted by the end, I could hardly walk to my car. But that was it, I was hooked, and I was back again the next year.
When I first started skiing, I used to hate the "fast skiers in their tights," mainly because they flew by me like I was standing still. For that reason, it took me a couple years before I was able to ski without billowy, ridiculous pants. The first year was a pair of khakis, the second year was a pair of black, plastic pants I bought for about $10 at Target or something. They were an improvement in that they didn't become soaking wet, but I still had a long way to go.

Oh, I also did the race wearing a Fyodor Dostoevsky T-shirt. It was just a cotton T-shirt (I wore a thermal underneath I think), I don't know how I managed to stay warm in that thing, the wind went right through it and it held water like a sponge.

The poles I was using were around 160 cm, which I found was just a little too short for me. The way you can tell this is that you scratch up your skis behind your boots because you're always digging in with the sharp tips.

I finished my second Birkie in under 5 hours, an hour improvement, and was bumped up to the 4th wave.

I finally broke down and did the race wearing tights, and let me tell you it's a lot more comfortable when you do that. Lately, I find the biggest key to doing any kind of race is to not overheat, which is good because it means I'm getting to a level of fitness where overheating is even possible.

For this race, I bought a new pair of poles. They were 165 cm, but I would eventually cut them down to 162.5, which is the length I've used ever since. I can see from the photo, that I did this Birkie before I cut them down. Live and learn.

I finished this Birkie in just under 4 hours, continuing my streak of taking an hour off my time every year.
Here was my first Birkie wearing a ski suit. It may not look like much, but this picture is a large reason why you will see so many people out there skiing the Birkie in CyclovaXC green suits this year. I had an extensive ski season in 1996-1997, staring with the Kangaroo Hoppet in Australia, and continuing with the Marcialonga and Konig Ludwig Lauf. My friends who spectated at these races said they could never see me because of my dark suit...well, I decided I'd design my own suit that would stand out from the rest of the pack (Frank and I feel we've perfected the look)!

In 96/97 I just got into the habit of doing a 50KM ski race every year, and it paid off. I finished in under 3 hours at the Birkie and earned a birth in the 1st wave.

You can tell in this photo that it was a cold day. I'm wearing lobster mitts and a neck scarf.  
Here's the first Birkie we did with the Riverbrook team, the shortened Birkie. Man, it was a fast day! I got to "OO" in 1:02. It was fun sprinting off the start line of the 1st wave. This was the only Birkie where I found myself nearly alone within the first two or three K of the race--that, my friends, is a feeling you can't buy.

I kind of laugh when I look at these pictures because I see a guy in 1998 who had come a long way from the fellow in 1994 (although Dallas thought I looked like I was more chilled out back then). 

This is the kind of transformation that the Birkie creates. We live in a day and age when a lot of people feel "trapped" in their routines and are seeking a way out. I sincerely believe the Birkie is an escape from that.  I'm very much looking forward to this Saturday at Telemark and seeing all the old and new friends who have come together to tackle this great event once again.

This will be Birkie 11 for me, here I am with Sofia picking up my 10 year plaque last year:
Hope to see all of you up there at Telemark!

If you wish to read some more about my Birkie adventures, please check out "Beyond Birkie Fever." Here are two great new reviews that also might inspire you.

Be sure to leave those guys comments on the awesome job they did!  See you Saturday, Go Birkie!

SKI TRAIL PROFILE: Big Rock Creek Farm, St Croix Falls, WI

Here is a fun video that Cyclova team member Dallas put together after the first ever ski at Big Rock Creek Farm!  This does a nice job of showing off the more extreme terrain along the southern border trail.  Thanks Dallas!

Every so often, one is fortunate enough to stumble across truly remarkable things, and my crossing paths with the fine folks of Big Rock Creek Farm, and their one of a kind destination is a truly remarkable happening - a once in a lifetime sort of happening. 

For the past year, I've had the incredible privilege of "helping" the Klein family, along with property manager Scott Hansen.  My "helping" consists of sharing my feelings on how silent sport & outdoor enthusiasts from across the region (or the globe) would flock to this 1600 acre property with 26 miles of world class trails, amazing terrain, rustic cabins, historic buildings, and pristine waters.  I've also been involved in helping with the procurement of grooming equipment, and with trail layout.  From the moment that Scott first showed me the property, it occurred to me that this is a world class venue for what ever they choose to do with it.

Starting on Saturday, February 16, 2013, Big Rock Creek Farm is opening it's gate to Silent Sport Enthusiasts - initially to Cross Country Skiers - with other user groups likely to follow.  Big Rock Creek Farm will be a destination for all levels of XC Skiers - with terrain for all to enjoy.  Skiers will find the outer perimeter of the trail to have trails beautifully flowing over terrain that exceeds the terrain of the Birkie Trail - with actual categorized climbs on the course.  Beginners or those wanting an easy ski will find gentle terrain running along the bottom of Big Rock Creek Valley.  There is always significantly more snow on most of these trails than the surrounding area, thanks to the towering ridge on the southern edge of the property - protecting snow on most of the trails from the warm southern winter sun.  For the remainder of this winter season, roughly 20k or half of it's trail network will be groomed for skate and classic skiers to enjoy! 

Here is a rough map of the 22K trail system at Big Rock Creek Farm, with a better map to follow.  Click on the map to download any GPX files, etc.
Following are the basics on skiing this trail system:
Location:  ~3 miles north of St. Croix Falls, WI on Hwy 87.  Look for the small yellow sign and the blue parking sign on the east side of Hwy 87 (just north of River Road).  
Parking:  For the remainder of the 2013 Spring ski season, park in the "Clubhouse" area by the parking signs by driving back in on the driveway along the creek.  Once in there, you will see a trailhead info board.
Trail Passes:  Day passes are available at Cyclova XC or the trail head kiosk for $10 for adults, $6 for Juniors (11-18), $4 for kids (10 & under).  Punch cards for 5 days of skiing are available for the price of 4 days (a $50 value for $40) only at Cyclova XC.  
Trail Distance: 20+K of immaculately groomed trails for skate or classic skiing.
Grooming:  Trails are very well groomed by Scott of Big Rock Creek Farm using a variety of top of the line Snowmobile pulled implements.
Warming House:  Not yet...
Lighted Trails:  No
Hours:  dawn til dusk...

An epic first ever group ski at Big Rock Creek Farm in early February, 2013.

To truly appreciate this place, you must know a bit of it's history.  This property was purchased in 1914 by the Siems family (and today is still owned by the same family - the Klein's) - built to be a Trout hatchery & epic get away for their family & friends.  They acquired Wisconsin Fish Hatchery License #10, which they still hold today (yes, this is still an active fish farm).  Many epic structures were built, most of which still exist today.  A few highlights include:
  • The Clubhouse:  Step back into the 20's in this huge house with a 3/4 wrap around porch that sleeps 18 people.  This house illustrates what good living was like in the 20's - ranging from top of the line woodwork, furniture, original ranch guns hung on the wall, and yes African big game throughout the house (Mr. Siems was an African Big Game Hunter for the Science Mueseum of Minnesota - much of the African mounts still hanging in the mueseum today were harvested by him).  The luxurious 20's clubhouse will be available for group rentals / retreats beginning in Spring of 2013.  See www.bigrockcreekfarm.com for the details on renting.
  • Wilderness Cabin:  Built of logs harvested from the surrounding hillsides (mini mountains, really), this cabin is a rustic, ornate work of art.  This cabin was built to the period of Big Rock Creek Farm's glory days - so there is no electricity, and it's a rustic yet elegant experience.  Lights are provided by propane mantle lights, wood heat, ice box, propane cooking stove, and an indoor water pump at the sink.  2 bedrooms & a futon to sleep 6.  Look out the window and you'll see a beautiful lake & marshland area, which is home to a pleathora of wildlife.  Are you in Montana, British Columbia, or St. Croix Falls, WI - out here it's easy to loose track!  This cabin is available for rental now - with rates said to be $175 for the first night, and $325 for 2 nights (and $140 for each additional night beyond 2 nights).  There is a 2 night minimum on the weekends.  See www.bigrockcreekfarm.com for the details on renting.
The Cyclova crew takes a breather on a ski at the remote & amazing cabin - which is available to rent.
  • Water Management System:  Through the middle of Big Rock Creek Farm, runs spring fed Big Rock Creek, providing pristine spring water for the trout that call this place home.  From the towering ridges above the creek flows enormous amounts of run off and snow melt water, as this property is the watershed for the entire Centuria region.  Back during the depression era when dozens of laborers lived on site, they built a network of dikes, dams, and water retention ponds to keep the dirty water & silt out of the precious spring water, where the fish were.  This network of water control measures was built largely with hand shovels and horse carts, including a particularly impressive 50 + foot tall dyke, which today's ski trails pass over.  This water management system keeps agricultural run off and silt out of the St. Croix River to this very day!  When out exploring the trail network at Big Rock Creek Farm, you will be dazzled by this water control system.
  • The Barn:  Built in 1924, this was the biggest barn in Western Wisconsin at the time.  It's still a huge barn by any measure, still used for a variety of agricultural purposes to this day.
The group takes a breather on the epic first ever ski of Big Rock Creek Farm - February, 2013.

WAX TIP: 2013 American Birkiebeiner

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

Following is the preliminary Cyclova XC Racing Service 2013 Birkie Wax tip for the 4 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 12+ years of professional experience in creating race wax tips. 

For the full scoop on how to follow wax tips, check out MY ARTICLE on the topic. 

For a very detailed commentary & analysis on 2013 Birkie conditions & ski prep theory for the event, click HERE.

Event:  American Birkiebeiner, from Cable to Hayward, WI.

When:  23k, 52k, or 50k Freestyle / Classic. 10 waves, with the elites starting at 8AM at Telemark on Saturday, February 23, 2013.

Forecast & Conditions:  Overnight low close to 10'F, with a temp in the mid teens at the start.  Daytime high will be around 30'F, with partly a primarily overcast sky. The snow temp will be relatively cold.  Expect machined track conditions with a mix of old and a new snow.  Some dirt will be present in the snow - particularly on the final 15 k of the Birkie course on the south facing hills - as well as in the vicinity of road crossings.  Classic tracks will be firm and somewhat glazed.

Ski Flex Tips:  Moderately flexed skis for machined track conditions

Structure Tips:
Structure (Elite through wave 3):  Cold SuperFine Grind or a fine structure (1 pass with the Blue Toko Structure-Rite tool).  
Structure (Wave 4 and back):  Cold Universal Grind or a medium structure (1 pass with the Red Toko Structure-Rite tool).  

Glide Wax Tips:
Fast Wax (Elite through wave 3): HS-10 Teal, Scrape, Brush, HSLF-10 Teal, Scrape, Brush, HSF-10 Teal, Scrape, Brush.  Apply Flite #11 Arctic (White) Flourocarbon ironed (using the Fast Wax Base Saver) or roto-corked in, brush with dedicated flouorcarbon brush, and polished with polishing pad.
Fast Wax (Wave 4 and later): HS-10 Teal, Scrape, Brush, HSLF-10 Teal, Scrape, Brush, HSF-10 Teal, Scrape, Brush.  Apply Flite #11 Cold (Blue) Flourocarbon ironed (using the Fast Wax Base Saver) or roto-corked in, brush with dedicated flouorcarbon brush, and polished with polishing pad
Swix (Elite through Wave 3):  LF-4, Scrape, Brush, HF-4BW, Scrape, Brush, FC-7 (Cold Cera) ironed in, brush with dedicated flouorcarbon brush, and polished with polishing pad
Swix (Wave 4 and later)  LF-4, Scrape, Brush, HF-4BW, Scrape, Brush, FC-8 (Medium Cera) ironed in, brush with dedicated flouorcarbon brush, and polished with polishing pad
Toko (Elite through Wave 3):  Dibloc LF Black / Dibloc LF Blue mix (1 : 1 Ratio) Scrape, Brush, Dibloc HF Blue, scrape, brush, Jetstream Blue ironed or roto-corked in, brush with dedicated flouorcarbon brush, and polished with polishing pad
Toko (Wave 4 and later):   Dibloc LF Black / Dibloc LF Blue mix (1 : 1 Ratio) Scrape, Brush, Dibloc HF Blue, scrape, brush, Jetstream Red ironed or roto-corked in, brush with dedicated flouorcarbon brush, and polished with polishing pad (If you can get your hands on it, Helx Cold would also be an optimal Flourocarbon for this event.
Holmenkol (Elite through Wave 3):  Holmenkol Alpha-Mix Blue, Scrape, Brush, Holmenkol Matrix Green, scrape, brush, Speedblock Cold ironed or roto-corked in, brush with dedicated flouorcarbon brush, and polished with polishing pad.
Holmenkol (Wave 4 and later):   Holmenkol Alpha-Mix Blue, Scrape, Brush, Holmenkol Matrix Green, scrape, brush, Speedblock Mid 08 ironed or roto-corked in, brush with dedicated flouorcarbon brush, and polished with polishing pad.

Grip Wax Tips:
Swix:  Roughen grip zone with 150 grit sandpaper.  Apply Swix VR-35 Base Binder, iron, and smoothen with cork.  Wait to apply your grip wax of the day until Friday night, and check wax reports / weather.    The optimal grip wax of the day will likely be 3 thin smoothly corked layers of Swix VR-40 lightly covered with Swix VR-30.
Toko:  Roughen grip zone with 150 grit sandpaper.  Apply Toko Base Green, iron, and smoothen with your thumb while still warm.  Wait to apply your grip wax of the day until Friday night, and check wax reports / weather.    The optimal grip wax of the day will likely 3-4 thin, smoothly corked layers of Toko Blue.
Ski Go:   Roughen grip zone with 150 grit sandpaper.  Apply Base Ski Go XC Green, iron, and smoothen with your thumb while still warm.  Wait to apply your grip wax of the day until Friday night, and check wax reports / weather.    The optimal grip wax of the day will likely 3-4 thin, smoothly corked layers of Ski Go HF Blue.

Should you have any questions on Birkie ski prep, feel free to stop by or contact the expert ski technicians at Cyclova XC.  If you're interested in having us wax your skis, ensuring lightning fast skis, check our our Birkie Ski Service Program HERE.  Give a fun shout out to all of the Cyclova XC Team Skiers on the trail - as well as everyone wearing the Ski Like Landgraf Hats!

ADVENTURE & TECH NIGHT: Wed, Feb 13th -- What to Expect at the Birkie (Wax clinic and pep talk)

Time flies doesn't it folks! Here we are getting ready to have our last Adventure & Tech night of the 2013 season. Well, the good news is that we've saved the best for last in what's already been a tremendous season for cross-country skiing!

Tonight at 6 PM at the CyclovaXC retail shop in downtown St. Croix Falls, we'll have a presentation on what you can expect at this year's American Birkebeiner. For those of you who are doing your first Birkie, this is a must-attend event as you'll hear a bunch of tips and tricks from veterans who know how to navigate the sometimes tricky waters of this great event.  In addition to a lot of fun, humorous anecdotes, we'll be discussing:

  • Bib Pick-Up
  • Shuttle logistics
  • Race strategy
  • What to wear
  • What to bring
  • As well as addressing any other questions or concerns you might have
Additionally, Frank Lundeen will be revealing his 2013 Birkie Wax tip.

Trust me when I tell you that Birkie week flies by in a heartbeat, so you should start putting on the first layers of wax as soon as possible.

As always, beverages will be served, so come on down to CyclovaXC and be prepared for a big screen presentation that is sure to leave you with a white hot case of Birkie Fever!


Take advantage of great deals on select xc racing skis and boots at Cyclova XC - through the end of February only!

!!40% OFF SALE!!

Have we got your attention yet?  It's this time of year where we find out what changes are coming in next year's ski products - and there are some cosmetic changes happening in numerous brand's skis for next season.  Technology always keeps on advancing, which is a great thing!

In this case, the result is that much of our top end race ski inventory (skate and classic) and boots is on sale at 40% off of MSRP!  Call or stop by to learn which top products are included in this sale - now through the end of February 2013.  

Additionally, select glide wax products such as Swix Cera F (FC-9 & FC-10 powders), Toko Helx Cold, and Swix Base Prep wax is on sale at 50% off!

We now have the best skiing & snowshoeing conditions across the Midwest that we've had in several years and there has never been a better time to get great deals on the skis, boots, and wax of your dreams!  Act quickly, while the selection is still great!  Check it out at Cyclova XC!