WCCO TV To Feature Fat Biking In St. Croix Falls TODAY!

Chris Shaffer and Frank Vascellaro will be in St. Croix Falls tomorrow to do a feature on Fat Biking in the St. Croix River Valley!  Photo Credit:  WCCO
Word is out:  The St. Croix Valley is home to some of the best Fat Biking on the planet, and WCCO TV (Channel 4) is coming to do a feature story on it!  Today (Thursday, 30 January), Frank Vascellaro, Chris Shaffer, and crew will be here filming for a WCCO produced show known as "Goin' To The Lake".  The show features a variety of fun day or weekend type destinations from the Twin Cities.  This week, the show will focus on the St Croix Falls, Dresser, and Osceola areas!

In the morning, Frank & Chris will be fit to demo Salsa Beargrease XX1 bikes, 45NRTH Wolvhammer Winter Cycling Boots, Lazer Winter Cycling Helmets, and other gear at Cyclova XC.  After that, we'll look at a big map of the "City of Trails" to establish the lay of the land, and head up to Big Rock Creek Retreat for a peaceful Fat Biking experience - of the sort that only Big Rock Creek Retreat can offer.  After that, the entourage will head to the newest section of the Woolly Mountain Bike Trail System known as "Big Oak", for a fun/flowing single track shot of area Fat Bikers riding the freshly groomed Fat Bike specific trail.

The Woolly Bicycle Club has rolled out the "white carpet" for WCCO TV tomorrow.  Above is a picture of the Fat Bike Trails, part of the Woolly Trail Network being groomed.  Photo Credit:  Woolly Bicycle Club

Big Rock Creek Retreat, venue of the 2013 Solstice Chase Fat Bike Race will host WCCO TV tomorrow!  Photo Credit:  45NRTH

CyclovaXC Championships on February 15th!

Hey Folks!

We've decided to throw together a casual, informal race.  We're calling it the "CyclovaXC Championships" but people from all clubs are welcome to race (although you can't be declared the winner unless you're wearing something that says "CyclovaXC").

We're doing this Sasquatch Dash style which means, no support, no timing, and no fee!  Think fun and casual, just what you need a week before the Birkie!  Here are the details:

  • What: 2014 CyclovaXC Championships!  Good for bragging rights throughout the year--fun team event!
  • When: Saturday, February 15th at 8 AM--because we need time to go in and open up the shop afterwards!
  • Where: Big Rock Creek Retreat--our personal training grounds (that link goes to the Solstice Chase page, but there's a nice Big Rock map on there)!
  • How long:  Probably 21km.  Our first impulse is to follow the Solstice Chase race course, we'll probably mark it with spray paint...but that's subject to change.  Scott always does such a fine job for us on things like this that I'm sure it will be great!
  • Swag?:  Scott's come forward with some prizes already, I'm going to keep them a secret though...just show up!
  • Fee?: No, but BRC trail passes apply, and we'll leave out a coffee can for donations.
  • Crowning of the CyclovaXC Champion!--I've got Wolf making a medal for us.  I think we'll give out one medal to the first CyclovaXC suited person to cross the finish line!
Again, this should be a good-natured, low-stress tune-up before the Birkie.  It's also an opportunity to hang out with the guys, get a team photo, etc!  The Birkie is just on the horizon, and you don't want to blow up the week before the event, but this should be long enough and intense enough to keep you sharp and ready!  Afterwards, come by CyclovaXC and get a jump on getting your skis prepped for the race!  We usually start getting hammered with waxing work about then, so the earlier you get your equipment in, the better!

Cheers and see you on the 15th!  Here's the Facebook event, so please let us know you're coming!

Oh, and the "Pay-Per-View" thing?  Show up and "pay" your trail pass fee and you can "view" the race!  Awesome!

Marine O'Brien Race Report


We can file this one under things you probably shouldn't do.  For the second time this year I am trying to fight off something.  I keep saying I'm not sick, but I've definitely got something going on.  Cough, stuffy nose, etc.  You know, the crud.  But really, I'm not sick.

Anyhow, after missing out on the TC Champs a few weeks ago because I was sick and not being able to make it to the Balsam Branch race last weekend, I really didn't want to miss this one.  So despite feeling less than 100% I convinced myself that racing was a good idea.

It really wasn't.  The race felt like it went from OK to not so OK, and post race analysis shows that it was my least impressive performance of the last two years.  I fought valiantly through the first lap and then the wheels came off, the transmission blew, and I'm pretty sure I threw a rod on the second lap.  I seriously considered DNF'ing for the majority of the second lap.  In fact, I even pulled over to the side of the trail and flat out stopped for 15 or 20 seconds at one point.  I actually had a cheering section today though with my girlfriend and boys in attendance and didn't want to let them down (or me really, I didn't want to DNF deep down).
2/3 of my cheering section
I'll save you from my usual blow by blow, because really it isn't that interesting and it is a bit of a blur now.  I will say I did have fast skis again.  My Fischer Carbonlites I bought at CyclovaXC last year have really been great skis.  This time I went with FastWax LF-10 mixed with Toko Cold Powder.  This is the same thing I used at the Badger State Games last year with good success.  Again, it seemed I was outgliding folks on most of the downhills.  No blaming the skis for a substandard result.
Couldn't even pull together the sprint to pass these guys.  Almost though.
It was so much fun "seeing green" before the race though.  CyclovaXC had a great crew out there.  How can you not have fun no matter how your race goes when you've got a whole crew of team mates there?

Next up for me is the North End Classic in two weeks.  Then the Birkie in four.  Yikes.
She did manage to coax a smile out of me at the end.

Ladies Group Night Ski

Cyclova XC Women Only Fitness Group

Join the Cyclova XC ladies for a night ski on the lighted Balsam Branch ski trails this Thursday, January 30th. We will meet at the trail head at 6:45 p.m. and plan to ski until approximately 8 p.m. The lighted portions cover the interior loop which is about 4k of groomed skate and classic xc ski trails. This section is labeled "easy" to "moderate" and can be enjoyed by even novice skiers. 

See information and map of Balsam Branch trails here. Driving directions from St. Croix Falls: take Hwy. 8 east to 150th St. Turn right (south) on 150th St. to 120th Ave. Turn left (east) on 120th Ave. and continue past Kennedy Mill to Trail Head on the right. Signage to trail head is easily visible from the road (follow the arrows on the square blue ski signs). 
Please RSVP and tell me what kind of skis you have (skate or classic) AND if there are any ladies that would like to meet at Cyclova XC at 6 p.m. to carpool or caravan together please message me (Kristen) via email (kristenvelaski@gmail.com) or via Facebook on Cyclova XC Women Only Fitness Group page.

Looking forward to an evening with friends at a favorite trail! As always, the cost is FREE! Let's enjoy a beautiful winter night on skis- great fellowship, good cardio, and perhaps a toasty beverage.   :-)


See you there!
Cheers~ Kristen












ADVENTURE & TECH SOCIAL NIGHT TOMORROW: Thursday, 23 January - Paddling Dunes & Glide Wax Application

Join us for tales of epic adventures, tasty beverages, tech talk, and socializing with fellow outdoor folk tomorrow night!
Don't forget, tomorrow is the first in our series of "Adventure & Tech Social Nights" at Cyclova XC!  If you love hearing tales of epic adventures, tech info, enjoy top shelf beverages (for the whole family), and above all meeting your fellow outdoor enthusiasts, you don't want to miss this.  Click HERE for the link the the season schedule for all "Adventure & Tech Social" events!

Tomorrow promises to be a spectacular event!  Remember, all are welcome and these events are free to attend (with COMPLIMENTARY BEVERAGES - the beverage theme tomorrow night is "Big & Bold")!  Sometimes, attendees even bring a snack to share - this series has truly has become a community event, which we look forward to all year!  We generally get between 20 and 70 people at these events - come and be a part of it!
Duane & a friend "maneuvering" on a paddling adventure.  Photo Credit: Duane Lee
Here's the scoop on tomorrow's event:

Thursday, January 23, 2014 @ 6PM:
Adventure:  Duane Lee presents "Paddling To The Dune".  This is a short film on Duane's 2008 paddling adventure on the rugged McFarlane River in Northern Saskatchewan.  The shores of the McFarlane River boast the biggest Boreal Sand Dunes on the planet, with a variety of species of plants that are entirely unique to the area.  Don't miss out out on this epic adventure tale of Cyclova XC's own Duane Lee!
Beverage Theme:  Big & Bold
Tech:  Frank Lundeen, co-owner of Cyclova XC presents Glide Wax Application Fundamentals and beyond.  The way in which ski wax is applied is more important than the wax you put on your skis.  Learn how to maximize the time and money spent waxing your skis.  There will be plenty of time for Q & A as well!  Just in time for BIRKIE FEVER!

Kick back and enjoy tales of Cyclova XC's own Duane Lee on the Cyclova XC 17 foot big screen theater!  The show starts at 6PM!

I See Green! 2014 Balsam Vinterfest!

All photos by William Johnson
Saturday, January 18th was the 17th annual Balsam Vinterfest 20km ski race, and we had a blast!  This was kind of a "home field advantage" race since it was so close to our shop in St. Croix Falls, and it was great to see so many CyclovaXC skiers out there hammering the trail!  Frank and I founded Cyclova back in 2009, and I think this race had the biggest turn out of CyclovaXC skiers (other than the Birkie).  The standing rule is, if you see another racer wearing our jersey, you have to trot over and say hello!

The 17th annual Balsam Vinterfest also marked the return to racing of Dan Kann after a 25 year lay off!  It has been a blast skiing with Dan at local events.  The guy has some great skiing stories, and boasts a pretty impressive resume in terms of Birkie placings.  He's got exactly the kind of energy we like!
Frank hammering at the start
As you can see, the trail was in good shape, but there was a little bit of soft stuff on top that disintegrated especially on the hills.  It was a day for a soft flex ski (I was on my stiff pair like a moron because I haven't had my soft pair running right this year...nothing like a race to kick you upside the head and stop you from procrastinating on getting your equipment right).

This was a two lap race on a fairly challenging course.  The second lap wasn't noticeably deteriorated from the first in my opinion.  The course held up well.
Tommy K at the Start
The key in a race like this is to relax, have a clean start, and just race your pace.  This isn't the Birkie so you don't have to worry too much about getting out ahead of the group (to avoid getting bogged down in "hill lines").  The best strategy is to double pole for a hundred yards or so before slowly transitioning to a skate.  However, starting mishaps can get the best of even experienced skiers.  Greg Mikunda broke his pole within twenty yards of the starting area.  Such adversity is never accounted for in the finishing time, but Greg persevered, got a new pole, and caught and passed me on the trail.  I'll never forget the look of determination in Greg's face as he went by.  That was a heck of a race and showed a lot of character I thought.  Nice job Greg!

In the first kilometer or so, I had a guy tap my pole a couple times with his ski.  I'm starting to get in the habit of looking people in the eye and telling them not to do that during a race (I think my exact words in this case were, "hold on a sec" which is pretty restrained actually).  I understand that people get excited, but folks, you're better off sitting back and chilling out for the first couple kilometers until the group spreads out (especially in a race that only has a hundred people in it).  Everybody is being held up by the person in front of them at the beginning of a race.  There's no point in accelerating to pass if you're just going to get stuck behind the next person.  In about two kilometers it will open up and you'll be able to ski more easily.  Don't go thwacking somebody's pole fifteen times on a climb...that's rude (ski equipment is expensive).  I'll give you one because anyone can make a mistake.  If you want to pass say, "on your left" and move around, people will get out of your way.  But wait until the race thins out a touch otherwise it's not worth making the effort.

About 8 km into the race, the guy who tapped my pole eventually did pass me (he'd been out of sight at times).  He was very courteous then, and I gave him plenty of room to get by.  No hard feelings, everyone gets worked up at the start of a race, but it's better to concentrate on getting through the first two K clean rather than fast.
Tommy K on the trail
As you can see, they have a beautiful trail up at Balsam Branch (also known as D.D. Kennedy park).  If you've never skied there, there is a map on the entry form here. Balsam is one of the little known gems of the area, go check it out sometime.
Eddie "Going Big" at Balsam
Above is Steve Edling from Edling Chiropractic.  Check out his blog for a lot of great skiing and general health insights.

I also want to give a shout out to the contingent from the Woolly Bicycle club that was cheering us on (make Woolly your Imba chapter).  Kristen Velaski completed her first XC ski race and it was great to see her out there.  Her husband Keith was out on the course and gave a hearty cheer, which is exactly what you need when you're starting to feel all that lactic acid coursing through your muscles!  The cowbells at the finish line were also a treat!  Hopefully we can get Kristen to do a write up for her Gravel Shark blog!
Leske lookin' good!
All in all, it was a fantastic day!  Maybe next year we'll be able to generate another five or ten Cyclova skiers to come and do this.  Remember that these local races generate funds that go to grooming the trail.  Sometimes it's easy to overlook how expensive and time consuming trail maintenance is, so any way to help out is welcome.  I'd like to thank the organizers, volunteers and groomers of the 2014 Balsam Vinterfest for a fantastic event!  Next year, I bet we'll see Heidi and Marcus Tupy out there!  The day I see Mark Fisk, Keith Velaski, Micah Bruns, and Jeff Evans competing, my life will be complete!

For a complete list of results, click here.

Also, thanks to William Johnson for sending me all the action photos!

!!2014 Winter/Spring Adventure & Tech Social Series Schedule!! (All welcome, Free to attend)

Socializing with like-minded outdoor enthusiasts of all ages is always a highlight at Cyclova XC's Winter Adventure & Tech events!
The Winter of 2013-2014 will go down as one of the best xc skiing, fat biking, or snowshoeing Winters on record.  Simply put, it's been a superb Winter - and we've been busy at Cyclova XC, serving you (our amazing customers)!  We've been getting dozens of requests daily as to when we are going to announce our Winter Adventure & Tech Social Series schedule - well, here we go!

This series is for anyone who enjoys the outdoors, and these are FREE events - for people of all ages!  

People in attendance will hear epic adventure stories (usually a slide show or video on our 17 foot big screen), learn about some fun tech stuff from an industry expert, view amazing art, and above all meet & socialize with all kinds of cool people from across the region.  Oh, and did I mention that we serve up a great variety of complimentary top shelf beverages for all at each of these events?!?  One other thing - there are special deals at each of these events - deals that you must be in attendance to get, good for this one night only!

Generally starting at 6PM, capacity crowds ranging from 20 - 70 people enjoy an epic adventure tale by a renowned local adventurer on our 17' big screen!

Thursday, March 20, 2014 - !TRIATHLON NIGHT!:
Adventure:  Mike Colaizy, endurance athlete & trainer extraordinaire shares a slideshow highlighting his experiences in a variety of Ironman events around the globe.  He will focus specifically on the St. Croix Virgin Islands 70.3 & of course Kona (as well as others)!  Mike has a way of exciting everyone in his presence, so be prepared to be on the edge of your seat and wanting to launch off of your chair to go train for an Ironman! 
Beverage Theme:   "A Refreshing Spring Thaw"
Tech: Jim Kelley, a local Ironman veteran, presents "Introduction To Triathlon".  Topics will include: an overview of the sport of triathlon (swim, bike, run), various race distances, basic equipment needs for getting started, a simple approach to preparing yourself for your first race, and a question and answer session.  Jim has 35+ years of endurance sports experience, is a USAT Level 1 Certified Coach, and is an Associate Coach at E3 Training Solutions.

Thursday, April 3, 2014:
Adventure: Joshua Stamper, founder of the Gravel Conspiracy & cycling veteran of many stripes presents:  "Gravel Adventuring".  Josh will share many of the epic gravel adventures he's experienced on his own & with friends.  Josh will talk specific plans on this year's Gravel Conspiracy Northwoods Adventure, which is sure to be epic, fun, and memorable for all involved.  If you're into general adventuring, exploring wilderness, gravel, or cycling, you absolutely don't want to miss this.  
Guest appearances will also be made by numerous Team Cyclova XC members who are veterans of the Gravel Conspriacy.  A few photos will be shown, not to mention ridiculous (and perhaps embarrassing or even scary stories)!
Beverage Theme:  "Adventuresome Travelers"
Tech: Ben Mullin, a Cyclova XC team veteran presents:  Effective training & navigation with a GPS unit...  Ben will talk basics, and then take the deep dive into how to access, analyze, and act on the extensive data that can be gathered when training with a GPS unit. 


Jerry Slater of the Toko Tech Team leads a tech presentation last year, which always follows our adventure presentation and intermission!
http://www.cyclova.com/p/ski-service.html

WAX TIP: 2014 Balsam Vinterfest

Dave Landgraf hammers the 2010 Balsam Vinterfest!  Photo Credit HERE.

Following is the Cyclova XC Racing Service Wax tip for the 2014 Balsam Vinterfest Ski Race.  I do tips 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 personally create based on my 16+ 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.

Event:  Balsam Vinterfest @ the Balsam Branch Ski Trails.  Amery, WI

When:  2k, 6k, 10k, and 20k skate and classic races starting between 9:45AM - 11AM on Saturday, Januray 18, 2014.

Forecast & Conditions:  Overnight low close to 2'F, with a temp in the low to mid teens at the start.  Daytime high will be around 17'F, with snow falling before and during the event.  Expect packed powder conditions, with new snow accumulating on top.  Race course conditions will generally be soft.  Click HERE for the NWS forecast, specific to the race venue.

Ski Flex Tips:  Soft flexed skis for soft trail conditions.  This is the single most important factor in having fast skis at this event!

Structure Tips:  Cold SuperFine Grind or a fine structure (1 pass with the Blue Toko Structure-Rite tool).  

Glide Wax Tips (in alphabetic order):
Fast Wax: HS-10 Teal, Scrape, Brush, 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:  LF-4, Scrape, Brush, HF-6, Scrape, Brush, FC-7 (Cold Cera) ironed in, brush with dedicated flouorcarbon brush, and polished with polishing pad
Toko:   Tribloc LF Black, Scrape, Brush, Tribloc HF Blue, scrape, brush, Jetstream Blue 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.)

Grip Wax Tips (in alphabetic order):
Swix:  Roughen grip zone with 150 grit sandpaper.  Apply Swix VR-35 Base Binder, iron, and smoothen with cork while still warm.  The optimal grip wax of the day will likely be 3-5 thin smoothly corked layers of Swix VR-40.
Toko:  Roughen grip zone with 150 grit sandpaper.  Apply Toko Base Green, iron, and smoothen with cork while still warm.  The optimal grip wax of the day will likely 3-4 thin, smoothly corked layers of Toko Blue.  For those that desire more kick, substitute Toko Red grip wax for Toko Blue. 


Should you have any questions on Balsam Vinterfest ski prep, feel free to stop by or contact the expert ski technicians at Cyclova XC.  Stop by the Cyclova XC / Toko Tent at the event to say hello, and check in on the wax tip!  If you'd like help applying grip wax or flourocarbon overlay, stop by the tent at the race before the race!



Sisu 2014 Race Report

Start of the Classical Elite Wave at the Sisu Marathon
What a great day for a ski!  On Saturday January 11th, 2014 we awoke to a morning temp of about 22 degrees, 100% humidity, and it never got warmer than about 27.  If you don't have a good time skiing on a day like that you need to retire from the sport (OK, I don't mean that...never retire!).

Really though after a couple weeks of -22 degrees it was awesome to get outside on a nice day.  It's amazing how much warmer it feels when the temperature rises by 44 degrees!  As always, we had a nice, solid contingent of Cyclova people up there at Sisu, although not as many as we've had in previous years.  I attribute this somewhat to last year's cancellation (which came despite my assurances to a half dozen people that of all the races, Sisu was the one guaranteed NOT to get cancelled...sigh).

That Sisu race is a pretty tough little course, and although we had fast snow on race morning, there was a bit of powder on top for control.  That powder was welcome because there is about a 4k section beginning around km 18 that becomes very windy and hilly out at Sisu.  It's not World Cup technical by any means, but it's technical enough that it concerns me every year.  If there were ever a Sisu marathon with concrete corduroy conditions, I would be scared to race.  I freely admit that I've lost my nerve a bit (having kids takes some of the punch out of a guy...for those of you who didn't know me before I had kids you can only imagine) but Sisu is the only course around that makes me nervous.
Tommy K at the start
Sisu starts at ABR and it's a wonderful venue for a ski race.  There are plenty of buildings to hang around in and stay warm.  In one of the buildings they had several waxing benches set up, and there were a lot of nervous classical skiers hanging around adjusting their kick wax.  I ran into Dale Kicker and we started chatting. I must have seemed calmer than I actually was because after a while he looked at me and said, "you don't get nervous about an event like this do you?"  The question made me reflect for a moment and I replied, "well, it's 22 degrees, when it's that warm you know you're going to survive, I'd be nervous if it were -22."  

The pressure is off me these days.  I just want to go out and go as fast as I can, but it doesn't matter if it turns into a trudge fest.  It wouldn't be the first time, and it won't be the last time.  You can't consistently race without occasionally showing up at an event unprepared, but I felt like I was going to do well.  You never know for sure how your body is going to react until you get that first 42k ski under your belt...but I felt good.
This is clever, somebody had sewn their birkie bibs into a ski bag!
I tell you what though, it's fun hanging out with Duane Lee before a race.  He gets really excited and pumped up!  In the warming hut before the race, I shared my trick of bringing along a couple packets of hand warmers during a race.  The thing is, before a race, you're always second guessing how to dress.  If you over dress you sweat too much and you end up colder than if you under-dressed.  Actually, I don't know if it's possible to under-dress (the only time I've ever gotten cold during a race was the 2010 Birkie when it was -7 at the start...I was nervous that day), but you always psyche yourself into putting on more than you need.  To help me not put on too many layers, I always stick hand warmers in my water bottle pouch.  The thought is that if I get cold on the trail, I can activate those hand warmers and stick them to my stomach.  Knowing that I have a means to warm up out there should I need it puts my mind at ease.

The clock continued to tick and the races began to start.  First off were the classical people.  There were several waves, so I took a couple photos of the elite skiers than ran off to get into my ski boots.  My race started at 9:45.  I was in the 3rd wave of the Skate race so I was able to watch Tommy and Duane take off.  Then it was my time to line up.

The great thing about a marathon ski race is that you don't have to hammer like a mad man right from the line.  42km gives you plenty of time to ski a smart race.  Still, you almost always have a couple jokers who do something stupid in the first 100 meters.  For that reason it's a good idea to get out ahead of the pack.

I lined up in about the 3rd row and waited for the gun.  We were supposed to double pole a 100 meters just to help the pack thin out before we started skating.  The starting area at ABR heads towards the hut, then takes a sharp left hand turn up a hill.

The gun went off and I double poled at a moderate pace.  Double poling is a good stroke for me and I don't have a hard time keeping up with people.  We had a smooth start and were just transitioning into a skate when the guy immediately in front of me skied off the trail with his left ski and got bogged down in the deep snow.  His technique was a little awkward (he took up a bit more space than he needed to), and rather than take the time to properly correct and get himself out of the deep snow, he tried to correct on the fly.  This resulted in him taking about three strokes where his left tip kept plunging into the deep snow, throwing him off balance and killing his momentum again and again.

I sat behind him patiently waiting for him to stop flailing about in the snow, but eventually I got sick of it and saw an opportunity to pass.  I slid to my right, getting around the guy as he flopped around like a hooked fish.  I'd just gotten past him, when he made one final forward leap and landed squarely on my pole.  Fortunately he landed on the basket and not the shaft so he didn't break the pole.

Now, when I was a 165 lb skier, such a thing would have knocked me down.  However, at 210 pounds, chances are I'm going to win the battle of mass against most other skiers in the event.  I've had a couple skiers step on my basket in races over the last couple years, and lately the result has always been the same.  I just pull my arms forward in a normal stroke and it sends the offending skier spiraling off in a spectacular crash of curses and snow.

I felt a little bit bad about the tangle up, but it was entirely that guy's fault.  Look folks, just don't step on people's poles, and if you get bogged down in the deep snow because you ski off the trail, pull off and wait for the group to go by.  You're the one who made a mistake, so now you have to wait and not interfere with other people's race.  The guy eventually did catch up with me at about km 8, so good for him.  At that point in the race, the start was but a distant memory, and I didn't harbor any ill-will (hopefully he felt the same).

I have to say that skiing this race felt good!  My wax was fast and the course had powder on the top but it was firm beneath.  It was possible to really ski, and I went along at a respectable pace.  My finishing pace ended up being 4:10 per KM (or 4:11 can't remember) which I was very happy with.

There are some BRUTAL climbs out there at ABR, but there are also a couple flat sections where you can gain some time.  I was skiing a lot of V2 in the flat sections, which I'm usually too undisciplined for.  V2 is a faster stroke, but your body goes through it a little more slowly so psychologically you don't think you're going as fast.  I kept glancing at my GPS though, and when I was in V1 my speed was something like a 6:05 minute mile (my GPS is in MPH) and when I was in V2 it would drop down to 5:45.  V2 feels like a recovery stroke (for me anyway), so to be able to recover while gaining speed is awesome.

This was the first race in a long time that actually felt like a complete race for me.  I conserved my energy on the uphills and hit it hard on the flats and moderate rises.  Where possible, I skied with groups to get out of the occasional headwind.  I didn't hammer to the point where I was sick, but I kept myself at a good pace throughout the event, stopping at every aid station for water and bananas.

Throughout the last 5 k or so, I skied with a group of three guys.  I stopped at the final aid station for a cookie and lost them, but I caught back up with one of them before the finish line (always eat) and passed him about 300 yards from the finish.  In the end, I finished in 2:55, which was a whole hour faster than the last time I did this event.  Mike Colaizy's push-up challenge has made a noticeable difference in my upper body strength, thanks Mike!
The finish area fire
This was a real "proof of concept" race for me.  Over the last year I've been doing a lot of events but not necessarily racing them.  You might remember the Birkie Trail Marathon adventure we had.  I just went out there and did that one without racing it and finished in over 6 hours.  I figured that such a thing would still provide fitness even if I didn't kill myself trying to have a fast time, and I think my result at Sisu proves that's true.  Sure, trail conditions can be part of the reason I was faster this year than in 2012, but the winner in 2012 was only 3 minutes slower, so I think it was fairly comparable.  

I tell you what, it's a lot more fun when you start getting to that level of fitness where you're not suffering at the end of a 42k event.  It's good to finish and have enough left over to get dressed and find your car without having to take a nap first.  Also, having a good result inspires you to make that extra effort to drop another pound or two.  I have over a month to the Birkie and I'm really excited about it this year!  See all of you at the upcoming races!

BirkieTour Giveaways!

The BirkieTour has a lot of fun stuff going on this weekend including some tremendous giveaway items.  Again, the BirkieTour is all the fun of the Birkie itself, without the stress of a race.  This is a great event for those of you curious about the whole Birkie experience, and a great way to prepare for the actual race.

Here is a list of items I just received from the Birkie office that are going to be featured in a giveaway over BirkieTour weekend.  They include entries to a lot of other Birkie Trail events.  Definitely something to check out!

5 Great Giveaways for the 5th Annual Birkie! 

Both drawings will take place Friday night – winners announced Saturday at the BirkieTour!

ALL SKIERS REGISTERED FOR THE 2014 BIRKIE TOUR by Friday 8:00 pm

Are eligible to win: 
  • Concept2 SkiErg - $960 value!
            

ALL SKIERS WHO COME TO THE  BIRKIE OFFICE AND PICK UP YOUR TOUR PACKET (PIN/T-SHIRT) by Friday 8:00 pm

Are eligible to win: 
  • Parking pass to Birkie 2014 start
  • VIP Package Birkie 2015 (Free Entry, Parking Pass, Race Wax Service)
  • Free Entry to Fat Bike Birkie
  • Free Entry to Trail Run, Relay & Trek


Pre-Loppet 2014 Race Report

Peace Coffee Pre-Loppet 2014

It's that time of year again folks.  Time for Ben's ski season race reports.  Apologies in advance, this first one is heavy on the word things and light on the picture things.

Season Intro
After an epic summer and early fall I think I have been letting my fitness slip a little bit.  A number of factors have been contributing to this including work and the weather.  I'm no wimp and will get out and ski when it is below zero.  Unfortunately it seems that the coldest snaps and illness happen to coincide with my long training days and as much as I'd like to say I can go ski for 3+ hours when it is minus 10 or sick, I just can't do it.

Despite mild concern for my fitness, I was pretty excited to get my 2014 race season started last weekend with the two day Twin Cities Championships.  I have been classic skiing way more than I have in previous years and I was excited to see if I couldn't hang a little closer to the competitive field after the first race.  Unfortunately Thursday before the race I woke up with a horrible sore throat.  I was in no shape to race that weekend.  The race would have been interesting too as they pulled the Sunday race up to Saturday and had a one day pursuit.  Would I have been fit enough to race two 10k races 4 hours apart?  I guess we'll never know.

So, looking forward I didn't have another registered race until the Marine O'Brien race at the end of January.  Nope, gotta race before then.  Looking at this weekend's race calendar, the Loppet Foundations Pre-Loppet which I could still get into for only $22 looked like just the ticket.  A competitive field on the first 17km of the City of Lakes Loppet course sounded brutiful.
CyclovaXC and Forest Lake HS Nordic!

Course History
This course and I have an up and down relationship.  I raced the 2010 City of Lakes Loppet the first year I was getting back into skiing after more than a decade of absence.  I had skied most of the course except for that first 9km or so which is the par 3 and back 9 and is anything but easy.  I blew up big time.  I managed to do it better at the TC Champs the next year.  Then COLL in 2011 I blew up again.  The 2013 TC Champs was acceptable I think.

Pre-Race
The last few days leading up to the race I was finally starting to feel better after the week before’s illness.  That is until Friday morning when I had a major allergic reaction to the antibiotic I had been on for the last week.  Talk about a little freak out when you go from perfectly fine one hour to completely covered in hives the next.  Thankfully the doc said I was fine to race as it hadn’t affected my respiratory functions at all, I just looked funny and itched.

The Plan
So given my state of fitness, past history with the course, my health, and this being the first race of the year I had a conservative plan.  I wanted to start further back, go out easy, ski every hill up to the tubing hill very relaxed focusing on good technique and transitions over the top and then see if I couldn’t push the pace on the front 9 and across Wirth Lake to the finish.

I got my Fischer Carbon Lite holes skis all greased up the night before following the Fast Wax recommendations except substituting some Holmenkol warm something or other for the top coat.  Verdict, fast!  It was fast in general out there, but I was out-gliding most people on the downhills.
What's that Ben Jonjak?  Skis, boots, poles?  Check.

The Race
Enough chit chat, lets race.  I was a little tardy getting my drop bag to the truck and therefore a little late to the line.  I planned on lining up a ways back, but possibly not that far.  I was probably 10 rows back and with 15-20 people per row there were a lot of people ahead of me.  The start was pretty clean, I only saw one pile-up.  I was double poling for 500m or so and then barely getting to start skating before we hit an uphill corner that bottle necked pretty bad.  The next few hills also bottle necked almost as bad.  Eventually the traffic changed from stop and go to just heavy.
 
Thanks to the rear starting position and some amount of reserve in feeling pressure to pass EVERYONE in the first 5km, I managed to execute the pre-race plan that far.  With just two major hills remaining on the back nine I was pretty pleased with how the race was progressing.  It was at this point in the race that it was starting to string out.  If I had to guess, I probably passed 50+ people between about 1km and 5km.  With a little more room I was now able to start picking people up ahead and start reeling them in and the race got interesting.

Coming onto the front nine I was skiing behind one guy, there were two more guys maybe 100m up the trail and then a whole crew of about 10 more another 100m up.  I followed the one guy for a while, and then bridged up to the next two.  After a short stint behind them, I bridged up to the next group.  I slowly picked my way through that pack until I was about 3rd position coming under Hwy 55.  Unfortunately the trail after 55 until crossing Wirth Lake the first time is very narrow and twisty and I had to ski someone else’s pace.  I did make it to the front just as we hit the lake.

I made a push across the lake but then bogged down just a bit climbing the last hill.  Two guys got ahead of me.  One opened a little gap and I stuck with the other guy.  Hitting the lake for the last time we had 500m to go.  I went for it trying to catch the guy with the gap.  I almost caught him.  Unfortunately I dragged the guy behind me as well though and ended up getting passed by him as well in the last 50m.  Oh well, sprinting for 75th place.
 
Analysis and Summary
Immediately after the race I was fairly satisfied with how the race went.  I executed the plan well conserving early and gaining ground.  Later analysis shows that each 5km was faster than the previous 5km.  All day I was reserving final judgement until I could see the results and run them through my nerdy race analysis spreadsheet (yes I have one).

After all of the number crunching I remain pleased with the results.  The results are on par with the results from last year and given the last few weeks I will definitely take that over falling off last season’s finish.

Next up for me will be the 25km Marine O'Brien skate race.  The race bug has bit and I'd like to race next weekend, unfortunately I've got plans with the kiddos on Saturday and can't hit the Balsam Branch race.  That looks like a fun one and I hear there should be a good CyclovaXC contingent on hand.  Hopefully I will see a bunch of you the following weekend down at O'Brien.

Next Up, Birkie Tour and Balsam Vinterfest



I already mentioned that Balsam Vinterfest is happening in Amery on January 18th, but if you are more inclined to do a tour than a race, the Birkie Tour might be the event for you.  The Birkie tour is a great event and gets rave reviews from everyone I've talked to who has participated in it.  Essentially you get everything you get at a race (support, aid stations, etc) only it isn't timed.

This event is for:

  • People who have signed up for the Birkie and are curious about the course: Check this link to have a look at the Birkie Tour course.  The event doesn't follow the whole Birkie trail from Cable to Hayward, but you're on the Birkie trail for a lot of the event and it will certainly give you an idea of the terrain you're in for at the Birkie.  If you can ski the Birkie Tour, you can ski the Birkie--guaranteed!
  • People who like the social component of ski racing, but not the crazy competitive side: Hey, we all know what it's like when "Birkie Fever" starts setting in.  You start revving up your motor and frantically searching for the ski pole you've got clenched in your hand (or something sillier).  Let's face it, a ticking clock brings out the best in us in some cases and...well, let's just say another side of us.  There is a definite allure to experiencing the Birkie trail and all it has to offer, but without the ticking clock!
  • People who are new to marathon skiing: This is a low pressure event so it's a great way to get out there and enjoy a very tough physical activity under the best circumstances possible.
  • People who love the Birkie Trail and can't miss an opportunity to compete on it:  Folks, the Birkie trail is the gem of the north and we're very lucky to have it.  They have the best set of groomers in the area, and they make every effort to have picture perfect, world class groomed snow.  The best way to squeeze the most you can out of a day is to spend it on the Birkie trail!
I really appreciate that the Birkie office holds an event like this.  It's great for those groups of skiers out there that are either new to ski racing, or who have done enough of it that it has lost its draw.  The Birkie tour is also a nice excuse to go and spend a day with your skiier friends who compete at different speeds than you tend to ski.  All in all, this is a great idea for further promoting the sport of cross-country skiing!  Go and check it out!

For more information or to register for the Birkie Tour, click here.
For even more information (a recent press release) click here.

2014 Candle Light Ski & Snowshoe Events in the St. Croix Valley!

Don't miss the amazing Candlelight Night at Interstate Park, in St. Croix Falls, WI on February 8, 2014!  Photo taken at the 2011 event.
Here in the beautiful St. Croix River Valley, we are fortunate to have endless acres of amazing National, State, and County, and Municipal park lands, with literally thousands of miles of amazing trails available for public use!  Many of our State Parks have world class cross country ski and/or snowshoe trails as well.  Once every year, some of these State Parks roll out the carpet (actually groom up the snow carpet), and light the way with beautiful candle luminaries for xc skiers and snowshoers!

Following is the list of candle light ski/snowshoe events at the State Parks along the St. Croix River Valley.  Note that there are many other candlelight events in Minnesota State Parks.  To view the full schedule and details on each event, click HERE.

1/11/14:  St. Croix State Park
2/1/14:  Afton State Park (Hike and snowshoe only, NOT SKI).
2/8/14:  Interstate Park Wisconsin: 
2/8/14:  Gateway State Trail
2/15/14:  Wild River State Park 

Following is the specific information on the Wisconsin Interstate Park event, which isn't highlighted on the MN State Park Website:  

Here is a video I took while skiing the 2011 WI Interstate Park Candlelight ski, a magical evening on skis!

Following is the press release on the Wisconsin Interstate Park event, which isn't highlighted on the above MN State Park Website: 
 
ST. CROIX FALLS, WI (January 7, 2014) – Mark your calendars for Candlelight Night at the Park on Saturday, February 8, from 6:00-9:00 p.m.

Experience a winter evening by candlelight as hundreds of candles are lit to guide skiers, snowshoers and hikers on separate trails.  Ski on the Skyline Cross-Country Ski Trail, snowshoe on the Ojibwa and Homestead Snowshoe Trails (snowshoes are available for use free of charge for ages 6 and up), or walk beside the St. Croix River.  There will be warming fires at the trailheads, and live music, food and refreshments available indoors at the Ice Age Center.

This is an event you won’t want to miss!  Mark your calendar today and plan to attend Candlelight Night at the Park on Saturday, February 8.

Interstate Park is located in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, on Hwy 35 just 1/2 mile south of Hwy 8.  The event is free of charge, but a Wisconsin State park sticker is required to enter the park.  Annual passes for 2014 are $25 for Wisconsin residents or $35 for non-residents.  Daily passes are $7 for residents or $10 for non-residents.  For more information about the event call 715-483-3747.

Separate trails are lit for skiers and snowshoers.  Bring out the family for an evening of Winter fun!




Sisu Marathon and Fridjtof Nansen this Weekend!

Hey Folks!

This is the first really big weekend of racing with the Sisu Marathon up in Ironwood on Saturday.  If you're looking for something on Sunday, I'd recommend the Fridjtof Nansen in Eau Claire (Tower Ridge is in great shape).

We've had some fun times at Sisu, although it was cancelled last year (click here to read about that).  Here's the story from the 2012 edition.

Hopefully I'll be seeing a bunch of intrepid Cyclova types up in Ironwood having dinner tonight.  I'm staying at the AmericInn and bringing the kids along.  I'll be looking forward to hitting the sauna tomorrow after the race!

Next week is Balsam Branch and the Birkie Tour (I'll be posting more about that next week).  Happy racing!  I'll be looking forward to checking out your pictures!  As always, send them to bj@cyclovaxc.com or post them on Facebook!

Other Notes:
Just a reminder to avoid the first price hike for the Pepsi Challenge – mail your registrations or do your on-line registration by Jan. 11th.   Jan. 12the the new price will be $75.00 for the 48/24K races.   10K races stay the same no matter what.

Early bird pricing on Eau Claire Marathon through January 15th

Skit At Standing Cedars On Saturday Morning!

Standing Cedars Community Land Conservancy, a land trust operating primarily in southwest Polk County, is hosting a cross-country ski event on Saturday, January 4th. Standing Cedars has always been open for cross-country skiing, but of the pioneering, break-your-own-trail sort. Now, for the first time, we’re experimenting with a groomed trail. A 5k loop will be freshly groomed early Saturday morning, and the first skiers will launch at 10am.

The trail starts and ends at our main Englewood parking lot. To get there, starting from East Farmington (on Hwy 35), go west on 30th Avenue to 280thStreet, then turn left and go south about seven eighths of a mile. The parking lot and trail head will be on the west, or right-hand side of the road. Dress warm, and come join the fun! Or, if you can’t make it, check it out afterward on Facebook Here. Then come and visit the trail, on your own, whenever you can.