Online Solstice Chase registration is closed. Race day registration WILL BE available!

Mullin's 2014 Birkie Race Report



The big one.  The one I was itching to do again the moment I finished last year (at least that is how I remember it now).  The 41st Annual American Birkebeiner.  True to form, this got wordy, grab some coffee to hang out with me for a little while.

Pre-Race

The race week proceeded as usual with the fever setting in solid.  Hourly checks of the weather forecast that was looking to bring chaos to the event, fretting about wax, thinking about packing (skis, boots, poles running through my head constantly), etc.

Greasing my skis.

As the snow storm wreaked its havoc on the region Thursday night I was getting my skis all greased up the best I could.  All Fast Wax except for the top coat.  Two each of HS-10, HSLF-10, and HSF-10.  The last coat of HSF-10 was mixed with Toko X-Cold powder.  The final top coat was with Holmenkol Cold block.  Maybe my skis are just fast in general, but as with almost all of my race reports, my skis seemed as fast or faster than those around me again.

Friday morning dawns and it looked and sounded like the real potential for the storm was realized.  I got a text from Ben saying our accommodations were in disarray, with the power knocked out and the driveway completely inaccessible.  Then I hear that the Junior Birkie has been cancelled because they can't get people to Telemark because of all of the snow.  Heck, it took me an hour to get out of my 20 foot driveway.

But, this is the Birkie, the big one, we are going.  New for me this year was participation in a Friday event.  My girlfriend and I signed up for the 10km Family Fun ski Friday afternoon.  This is her first year skiing and this looked like a great way to get her involved and a touch of Birkie fever.  I'm hoping it worked.  Korte next year, Birkie next year??  We shall see.
Pre-Family Fun Ski

We got to walk along Main street to check-in, watching the start of the moved Junior Birkie event and the big ski event.  Then it was our turn to ski along with the Nikkerbeiner.  It was fun to see all the folks dressed up for the Nikkerbeiner, but starting behind them was a little bit of a drag.  I know, Family Fun Ski, emphasis on the family and fun, but it was a walk up Main Street behind the wood ski folks.  But we eventually made it up Main Street to the golf course and did our 4 laps for 10km.  It was actually quite nice and a lot of fun out there.  I did classic since I was skating the next day and I wasn't going to ski on my race skis.  My ski buddy did great and it was fun to start and finish on Main Street even if we were coming at the finish line from the wrong direction.

During this time we saw that the changing tent had collapsed in all of the snow and winds.  Later that afternoon we saw the email saying it had collapsed and they had made arrangements to change at the elementary school.  A quick word about the race organizers, staff, and volunteers.  They did FANTASTIC.  Sure, everything wasn't ideal, but when you have an event this big, this many moving pieces, and that big of a storm to throw things into flux at the last minute, perfection isn't possible.  A huge thank you to everyone who still made this event possible.

After that, off to the expo for bib pick-up and general exploration.  The parking was a bit of a mess with multiple redirections by the law enforcement officers, but I took a deep breath and reminded myself we weren't in any hurry, there were 10,000 people here, and this was supposed to be fun.

Then we had spaghetti dinner at St. Joseph's with Dallas before heading back to the previously arranged accomodations that now had power (and thus running water), though we had to be shuttled up from the road in the 4wd pick-up.  Then we negotiated the morning departure time of 5:00 am.

The damage Dallas did at the spaghetti feed.
Race Day

Race day dawned early as usual.  We were out the door at 5:07 am for the shuttle down to the car on the road and then off to Hayward.  The shuttle from Hayward to Telemark was just as easy this year as it was last year.  Pull in, park, hop on the bus, at Telemark well before 7:00.  The new tent was OK, not as cool as sitting by the wall of champions, but it was better than standing outside.  Next year team CyclovaXC needs to have a big flag we post somewhere so we can all congregate.

Hanging with my girlfriend who also road the shuttle to spectate the start (which worked great by the way), Ben, and Rick the time flew by and soon we were walking down to the start.  I accidentally started my watch before heading down so I've annotated the map to give you the run down of the last 55 minutes before my start.

Hectic start map.

  1. Accidentally start my watch in the hospitality tent.
  2. Pick up skis
  3. Walk to the start area
  4. Potty stop #2 since arriving at Telemark
  5. Go just past the start line to spectate a wave start
  6. Realize I dropped my gear bag somewhere
  7. Nope, not in the snow where I watched a wave start
  8. Go to the onsite bib pick-up tent to get a new bag
  9. Gear drop
  10. At the side entrance to the second pen, uh, I definitely need to go again before I start...
  11. 7:30/mile in ski boots weaving traffic to get to the last row of portapotties for a last minute deposit
  12. 7:30/mile back to slide myself into the back of wave 2 with about 4 minutes to the start
In the start pen, ready to go, with a whole 2 minutes to spare.

Note to self... DON'T DO THAT NEXT YEAR.  Way too close for comfort, and despite being in wave two and not seven like last year, there is still a lot of slower moving traffic the first 5+km if you start at the back.  Pretty much right away I put aside any real concern about qualifying for wave 1 next year.  Sure, I still wanted to, but there was no use in getting all worked up about the less than ideal start.  It happened and I would just have to let the next 50km come as they did.

So anyhow, yeah, it was crowded for a while.  And soft.  Has anyone heard that the trails were soft yet this year?  Oh you did?  Well, you heard right.  Where I was at, you could occasionally find a line for a short stretch that wasn't all chewed to heck, but it wandered across the trail and would disappear eventually.  I can't, or don't want to, imagine what the trail conditions were like for later waves.

I spent all of the time up to OO slowly working my way through skiers from my wave.  It wasn't nearly as bad as last year skiing out of wave 7, but it still wasn't overly fun.  That said, as you will read eventually, I may have been over cooking it anyhow and shouldn't have been as worried about it.

When I reached OO doubts were starting creep into my head.  23km down, 27km to go.  Can I do another 27km?  Not getting a resounding yes back from my body at that point wasn't comforting.  My calves have been cramping lately and they were threatening to cramp along with the rest of my legs.  They never went into lockdown, but there were twinges and weird feelings going on.

A brief intermission from the race reporting.  It was an absolutely beautiful day to be out on the trail.  Even though it was cold and windy, the majority of the trail was sheltered from the wind and I never felt cold.  The snow on trees, the bright sun and clear blue skies!  I stopped (figuratively only) to remind myself to look up, look around, and be thankful that I could be out on the trails that day doing something I love doing in some of the most beautiful scenery.  Definitely worth all of the effort going into the race.

OK, back to the race.  Coming into the gravel pit aid station I was going downhill (feeling wise, not in elevation) in a hurry.  32km in and 18km to go.  I distinctly remember looking at my average pace and starting to think about how much time I had left on course before telling myself I didn't want to know.  Now normally I have to really concentrate on doing the math in my head.  Wouldn't you know that on this day it did it all on its own and it wasn't pretty.

Coming up on the 39k Club I was thinking about the Ballad of Lone Wolf.  He took his first Birkie experience to the fullest while I was head down hammer mode.  I was looking for a little for a little encouragement where ever I could find it by the time I skied past the shot ski this year.  Did I do it?  Sadly no.  The ski was setup with four shots, and had there been one or two other people there ready to do a shot, I just might have.  But, I didn't want to wait, so I put my head down and continued my trudge towards B Hill.

Oh man did I not want to face that sucker.  I was imagining a 50 story building made out of knee deep sugar to ski up.  Surprisingly though, it wasn't as bad as I thought.  Pretty soon I was to the top and nearly home free.

Well some more stumbling and survival V1-ing and I made it to the Landgraf statue and the view of the lake.  Now I never met Dave, coming to this Cyclova family after his passing, but I have heard nothing but respect and admiration for him from everyone who knew him.  Thus, in passing, I gave my nod to him, his influence on the people around me and the race I was participating in, and continued down to the lake.

And had my first ever shot of Jagermeister.  I'm not a big drinker, but I needed a shot to make it across the lake.  I don't think they had many takers when I passed since I got a decent cheer.  It went down easy and left a nice warmth in my belly.  Which was promptly ripped from my body as I stumbled into the headwind across the lake.  I was done, empty, nothing left.  I don't know how many people passed me on the lake but it was quite a few.  I knew I should tuck in behind someone and save some energy, but I just couldn't and plodded the lake all alone.  A look at the results and there are 8 wave two people who finished less than two minutes ahead of me.  I think most of them passed me on the lake.

And then there was Main Street, and the finish line, and some guy offering to take my skis off, and some guy interviewing me and Mike Phrenetton, and some stumbling in the snow to say hi to my spectator,and getting my 2 pin.  There was some food, and changing in the celebration tent, and saying hi to a few folks, and checking of results.

An imitation of a skate down Main Street.
Post Race

I haven't had time to really digest and analyze the results yet.  From what little I have it looks like an interesting year.  My race was OK, not the great race I was hoping for, but not bad by any stretch of imagination.  A few stats:
  • 12 minutes slower than last year
  • 40th out of wave 2
  • 57% back - 532 place
  • 57% back last year would have been around 1000 place
  • My spreadsheet is a complete mixed bag, better than last years Birkie, but not as good as a few other races this year.
Using the standard % back calculations from the past few years, I am on the bubble of 2/3 again.  Even if they change the standard though I don't think I qualified for wave 1.  And I'm OK with that.  I'm certainly interested in results, but not so much so that I miss out on the process.  It was beautiful out there, I got out skiing a bunch, and I got to hang out with my friends.  Does missing wave one take away from any of that?  Nope.

Done, and happy about it.
What's Next

I've got one more ski race on the docket this year.  The 48km Skate Pepsi Challenge on the trails of Giants Ridge.  I have skied there a bunch, but not in recent years.  I'm really looking forward to this one.  I'm hoping it is the typical March slush race.  I'm tired of the cold.

Then someone signed up for a 50km trail run at the end of April.  I suppose I should do some running...

Two pins to add to the Birkie medal ribbon.

Birkie 2014 Beat Down: The Beard Cost Me 2 Hours

Family tradition...daddy with daughters before the Birkie
Well, the Birkie is always an adventure, and this year didn't disappoint.  This whole weekend went by in such a blur that I'm having trouble keeping everything straight!  Let's go back to about Wednesday when the report was that the Birkie trail was firm and hard like a concrete highway ready to float us all to Hayward like being carried on a feather made of clouds.

Oh...then snowpocalypse hit and dumped 18 inches of fresh powder on top of everything!

I'd been spending the week getting over one of those colds that makes you hallucinate and attempt to iron things like avocados and grapefruit into the bases of your skis.  I'd been drinking so much orange juice that my teeth had rotted away to withered pegs that looked like they'd been carved out of driftwood.  Every time I coughed, I assured myself that it would be the last one and that I would be good to go on Saturday.

Zulma got the day off work on Friday, and after spending 2 hours digging a path down my five foot long driveway so I could get the car out, I got a message from my mom.

"The power just went out at my house."

Drat!

Part of the Birkie tradition was that my family comes up to stay at my mom's house (or "Grandma's House" as Sofia calls it), so I was bummed that there would be no power.

"Oh, and they haven't plowed the driveway yet."  Mom continued.

Double drat!

For a while there, we flirted with the idea of having my wife and kids stay home.  That way I could just go to Hayward and find a bed somewhere and do the race.  But it didn't take me long to say...to heck with that idea!  I wanted my family along!  I wanted to take a picture with my two daughters on Birkie morning!  So, we loaded up the car and headed out hoping that the road would be plowed and the power restored before we got to Spooner.  If it wasn't, my contingency plan was to just drive back to Chippewa Falls and leave in the morning.

We headed out at about noon, only to find the highways covered with ice about an inch thick.  If you went a touch over 40 mph, the back end of the car spun out to the left or right (whichever was more inconvenient).

I was kind of excited to get to Hayward, because I'd gotten this message from Martin Koukal:
I know Martin from the Inca trail, read this if you haven't.

Anyway, I was looking forward to getting to Hayward and hanging with Martin and Emalea Landgraf when all of a sudden my car started to whinny like a dying horse.  For a second there, I thought the muffler that Jeff Wolf had fixed for me was falling apart, but I quickly discarded that idea because whenever Jeff Wolf fixes something it stays fixed.

"I think you have a flat tire," Zulma said.

We'd just pulled into Trego so I pulled over into the gas station.
What?  You cant' just throw a patch on this so I can be on my way?
So there I was stuck in my disabled car in sub freezing conditions with my beautiful wife and children thinking, "man...what have I gotten us into!"  That was the first moment that weekend when I thought I might not be able to finish the Birkie that year...it wouldn't be the last time I would think that!

Well, after a millisecond of self-pity I realized that we were fortunate that the tire went flat next to a gas station so I didn't have to call for back up out on the highway somewhere (it would have been lethal with the roads as bad as they were).  We called up Neal and he was there in about 15 minutes with a hydraulic jack and a box of tools.  The tire had rusted in place, however, and we couldn't get it off no matter how hard we kicked it.  But then Adam Rogge showed up (he was on his way to get his Bib), and he said, "I have a piece of wood in my truck!" So he smashed the wheel a couple times with the block of wood and off it popped!

Awesomesauce!

The wife and kids piled into the F-150 and I drove the disabled Smashmobile with the donut wheel back to my mom's house that still didn't have power or a plowed driveway...but there was a fire in the fireplace so that allayed some of my concerns.  I left the Subaru by the side of the road and we 4 wheeled up to the house...got the girls under a roof, and the Birkie was back on!

By this time it was getting late, and Martin was sinking into "race attack" thinking mode.  Also, I was just ready to get to Hayward, get my bib, and go back to bed.  After the typical battle to prove my identity (they always assume I'm a ringer who is going to win the race from the 4th wave, so I need 6 photo ID's), I headed home.  In the parking lot I got a message from Zulma.

"The power is back on, yupiiiiii!"

So that was one less thing to worry about.

Back home.

For a little while I sat up worrying about my car getting smashed by a plow because it was more or less in the middle of a public road.  But meh...who cares? (that's one of the advantages of driving a POS...peace of mind about what happens to it)

By the time we went to bed, I was looking forward to getting on the ski trail where I could RELAX!

Well, Birkie morning came and we all awakened to a text from the Birkie office that read:

"Yeah...ummm, overnight, the hospitality tent collapsed, we're trying to get it set back up, but we don't know if we'll be able to. So dress accordingly...tee-hee!"

I decided to come prepared:
 I was also going to bring a hatchet to break into Telemark if I needed to, but I couldn't find mine.  Too bad we didn't have Jeff Wolf there to jimmy the lock...we needed Jeff Wolf at this Birkie!

The tent was one more little hitch to worry about later, first we had to do the typical fun of driving up to the start and getting on the bus.
When we got to Telemark, there was one tent up...the smaller tent up by the lodge.  It had a bunch of chairs in there, but most of those were spoken for and people were very territorial about their chairs.  I went up to a group of three people who had four chairs (one they were using to hold their bags).

"Hello," I said, "can we borrow that chair you're not using so we can put our ski boots on?"

They smiled.

"No, actually, this chair is for our friend who is coming shortly."

I smiled.

A thousand grizzly scenarios flashed behind my eyes mostly involving limbs, blood, and bits of fold-up chairs flying in all directions.  Chuckling madly, I backed away.  But after that little run-in with selfishness, I settled in and started having a good time.

I think it's the hour before the Birkie at Telemark which is my favorite time of the year.  The big day is on hand, and you just hang out with your buds and turn your nervous energy into inappropriate humor.  Here I am hanging with Ben, Rick and Starr.
We hung out and were able to chat with Tommy K, Kevin, and Wilkie before deciding to head down to the start area and see how bad the tent was.  When we got down there, we found out...yeah...they didn't really get the tent back up.  Somebody spray painted "Keep Out" on the side (which most of the skiers surprisingly obeyed)...I went in though, here's what it looked like inside:
I think next year they need to install four or five telephone poles that are permanent and then just throw the tent up over them during Birkie week.  I thought it looked a little dangerous in there, so I hung close to the door.

I hung around in here chatting with Dallas, Doran and Randy sharing last minute bits of advice before lining up at the cold...cold start line.

Another Birkie!

To put things in perspective, I was actually under the impression that I was fit this year.  I did the 42k race at Sisu in something like 2:55, I was 3:19 at Badger State and 3:02 at the Pre-Birkie.  It seemed like I was on pace to do a good Birkie...I'd put in the work at least.

Last year I'd had a good run and moved up a wave doing something in the 3:40 range.  The only thing different this year was the beard!

Much to the chagrin of my wife, I'd started growing the beard back in December.  It got a little long and then the forecast called for all those -20 days and...well...you just don't shave a beard when it is going to be -20.

So that beard kept getting longer and longer and I thought, "well, the Birkie is only two more weeks" even though it got to the point where I couldn't breathe or eat without getting a lung/mouthful of hair.

Anyway, the race started and I took off like a piston, mainly because I was freezing and I wanted to warm up.  I think for the first hundred yards or so, I was the 2nd or 3rd guy in Wave 4.  It was awesome!

Then the deep, powdered snow hit.

Oh...my...god...this Birkie was BRUTAL!

That snowpocalypse I mentioned before had left the trail in RUINS!  I think they got it more or less shaped up for the elite skiers, but for all of us miserable wretches in the later waves it was chopped to BITS!  By the time I was through the power lines, I was already looking like this (animated .gif follows...if you can't see this in your email, go to the Cyclova page and check it out):


I kept hoping it would get easier and it didn't.

Sometimes the trail hardens up when you get into the woods.

NOPE!

Sometimes it firms up when you get to the point where the Korteloppet skiers turn off.

NOPE!

The trail was brutal, powder, trudge-fest misery where you had to push to go downhill and plead to go up.  By the time I got to "OO" I looked like this (another .gif):


As I skied along, thousands, or millions of beardless men and women went flying by, the wind resistance sliding off their face like water off a duck.

While I was pulled down...down...down into the blackest, darkest nether regions.

My quick calculations revealed that I'd be lucky to finish in under 6 hours, which was about as long as it took me to do the race the first time I ever skied it.  Absolutely ridiculous!  A couple of times the thought of quitting flickered through my mind, but when that happened I thought of my mom who was doing her 27th (I think) Birkie on two reconstructed ACLs.  She wears knee braces on both legs, and I knew SHE wasn't going to pull out, so how could I?

At the Gravel pit aid station I spent so much time eating that my hands froze into ice blocks.  A little further down the trail, I stopped and windmilled my arms and managed to get circulation to return to the tips of the fingers.  After that, I didn't lift my arms up so high to pole.  Mikunda said that your hands get cold when you hold them above your heart, and I think he was right.  My technique was terrible and sloppy, but it was just trudge, trudge, survival mode anyway so it didn't matter.

On the last hill, I saw a couple of people standing next to Dave Landgraf's memorial and I asked them if they knew who he was.  They said they did.  That's such an appropriate place for a memorial to Dave.  You're so shot and emotional at the end of the Birkie that it brings tears to your eyes, and it's nice to think of him there.

At the last aid station, they gave me a Red Bull which was awesome, and that got me over the last set of hills, but I was NOT looking forward to crossing the lake.  There was a full-on headwind (of course).  However, the wind had blown the snow off the trail, and I was actually able to SKI for the first time in the whole race!

I got into Hayward, and the trail was again HARD on mainstreet, so I could ski, and it felt good to cross the line and FINISH.  By then the clock had ticked to five and a half hours, but whatever.  I got my pin.  Another Birkie for the books.

As I was changing, I ran into Ben and Starr, as well as Adam, Tyler, Janelle, Lisa and Rick.  Everybody was glad to be done.  I was kind of giggly.  It was wonderful to see everybody (it always is), I felt an extra amount of camaraderie after this extremely hard Birkie.  Dry clothing on, I felt human again.  We went over to a Coffee shop and Mullin bought me a tripple, extra-chocolate, heath, carmel-fudge, expresso, mocha-chino, extravaganza, with whipped cream and a chocolate covered coffee bean on top.  It was so thick I could hardly pour it, but it was the exact calorie count I needed to start the car up and wait for my mom and Neal to finish.  They did so in about a half hour, and we all decided to head home, shower up, and call it good.

It's mildly disappointing to not have skiied all that fast, but hey, we all made it through the weekend despite storms, accidents, bad road conditions, and--well, quite frankly--everything possible that could go wrong.

This was a challenging Birkie.

But it makes for a good story, and with the afterglow of nostalgia, you love and cherish every moment of experiences like these!  Bring on the 2015 Birkie!  Catch some Birkie Fever!

CyclovaXC Will Be Closed on Birkie Saturday

Hey Folks,

Just a quick note that we will be closed on Saturday, February 22nd so that we can all ski the Birkie!  We've made an effort to be open on Birkie Saturday in the past, but all of our friends and fellow athletes seem to be up at Hayward...and we want to hang out with you guys!

We will be open on Friday, February 21st and on Sunday, February 23rd!  Hope to see you then!

SLIGHT UPDATE - WAX TIP: 2014 American Birkiebeiner

Duane - one of the waxing gurus at Cyclova XC, makes some Birkie Flourocarbon (Toko Jetstream Blue) magic happen!

Following is the UPDATED Cyclova XC Racing Service 2014 Birkie Wax tip for the 3 major wax brands of the region. Note that these are not officially endorsed wax tips by the wax companies, rather these are tips that I have personally created based on my 16+ years of professional experience in creating race wax tips. 

Note that only a few minor tweaks have been made to this wax tip, which was originally published on February 12.  Note that anything that was changed from the original is highlighted in RED

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

If you would like Cyclova XC's waxing guru's to wax your skis up for the fastest skis of your life, CLICK HERE for the full scoop!

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 22, 2014.

Want More Details???  I expect the conditions of the 2013 Birkie to be quite similar to the 2014 Birkie, therefore, my wax tip is very similar to last years.  See a very detailed commentary on the logic behind last year's Birkie Wax Tip, which again, is quite similar to the 2014 Birkie.  This will help the most hard core ski dorks (yes, we're proud dorks) understand the reasoning behind the below information.  There is also a wealth of ski tech info on the Cyclova XC Ski Tech page.

Forecast & Conditions:  Overnight low of -8'F, with a temp in the single digits above zero at the start.  Daytime high will be in the mid teens above zero, with a mix of sun and overcast sky.  A Heavy Winter Storm will dump between 10" and 20" of fresh snow in the 60 hours leading up to the event.  

The snow will fall at relatively warm temps (moist large snow crystals), and then will abruptly cool down - creating very sharp/hard snow crystals - these conditions illustrate how important it is to generally error on the cold / hard end of the spectrum when it comes to glide waxing.  The snow temp will be cold, with sharp snow crystals at race time.  Expect packed powder conditions, with the snow pack loosening up in further back waves.  Classic tracks will be firm and somewhat glazed.

Ski Flex Tips:  Soft flexed skis for packed powder conditions.  This is the single most important aspect of having optimum skis in this year's Birkie!

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.  **NOTE:  As a more affordable alternative to Flite Flourocarbon, try the NEW Fast Wax Race Pro Arctic Arctic Paste - in stock at Cyclova XC**
Fast Wax (Wave 4 and later): HS-10 Teal, Scrape, Brush, HSLF-10 Teal, Scrape, Brush, HSF-10 Teal, Scrape, Brush.  Apply Flite #11 Arctic or Cold (White or Blue) Flourocarbon ironed (using the Fast Wax Base Saver) or roto-corked in, brush with dedicated flouorcarbon brush, and polished with polishing pad **NOTE:  As a more affordable alternative to Flite Flourocarbon, try the NEW Fast Wax Race Pro Cold Paste - in stock at Cyclova XC**
Swix (Elite through Wave 3):  LF-4, Scrape, Brush, HF-4, Scrape, Brush, FC-7 (Cold Cera F) ironed in, brush with dedicated flouorcarbon brush, and polished with polishing pad
Swix (Wave 4 and later)  LF-4, Scrape, Brush, HF-4, Scrape, Brush, FC-7 (Cold Cera F) ironed in, brush with dedicated flouorcarbon brush, and polished with polishing pad
Toko (Elite through Wave 3):  Tribloc LF Black / Tribloc LF Blue mix (1 : 1 Ratio) Scrape, Brush, Tribloc HF Blue / Nordlite Cold Powder Mixed & ironed in together, scrape, brush, Jetstream Blue ironed or roto-corked in, brush with dedicated flouorcarbon brush, and polished with polishing pad
Toko (Wave 4 and later):   Tribloc LF Black / Tribloc LF Blue mix (1 : 1 Ratio), Scrape, Brush, Tribloc HF Blue, scrape, brush, Jetstream Blue 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 be 3-4 thin, smoothly corked layers of Toko Blue (later wave skiers who want more grip will likely enjoy 3-4 thin, smoothly corked layers of Toko Red).


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!


Huddle up Green! It's BIRKIE Time!

Hello all!

Well, I bet this has been an interesting work week for you!  I know how skiers get!  This is the time of year where you spend all your time looking at the clock and thinking "T minus five days...four days...three days..." and then SNAP!!!  all at once it's Birkie Time!  The most glorious day of the year!

That frenzy starts to hit hard, and despite a year's preparation, it's surprisingly easy to do something stupid in the final stretch and miss out on the major event you circled on your calendar (like forgetting to bring your skis to the start of the race...seriously folks, I've seen it happen!).  That's why we put together the famous CyclovaXC Birkie Checklist so that you can just follow a list and not have to think on the days leading up to the Birkie.  Always remember, the mantra of the day is "Skis...boots...poles!" bring those three things and you'll be able to finish!

The 2014 Birkie is going to bring some changes to the great race.  Telemark is boarded up, and we'll no longer be able to conglomerate at the wall of champions (here's our race reports from last year with a bunch of pictures).  Apparently there are going to be "heated tents" which I'm sure will be great because you know how warm tents get when they're heated...

Yes...mild trepidation, don't like my routine messed with.

The forecast is looking solid.  Thankfully we won't have to deal with a 30 degree day (after all these -15 races, I think we'd have heat stroke in a 30 degree race).  I've seen snow in the forecast and a daytime high of 15, but you never know until you get up there.  Always remember that the Birkie starts earlier than other races in the area, so it's good to err on the side of cold with your wax.  As always, Frank put up a preemo wax tip which if you follow to the letter will get you super fast skis (he lists a recommendation for all the major wax brands so check it out).

I guess team green is going to have to look for one another at the big party tent.  I'm looking forward to it.  I think my favorite time of the year is the wait just before the Birkie.  Everybody is happy, everybody is excited, and everybody is fit and ready to go after a hard year of training, racing, and team fun!  It seems like a lot of our members have been fighting colds over the last week, but things tend to come together on Birkie day!  I'm looking forward to hearing your individual stories about the race.  It's your adventure, and everyone's story is worth hearing!  Send your pics and write-ups to bj@cyclovaxc.com!

Oh, and now's a great time to reread "Beyond Birkie Fever" as well!  Go Green! Go Birkie!
 

Carcelen Completes Olympic Course with Broken Ribs

Me with Roberto in Peru (2012)
After some recent ugliness involving two members of the Peruvian Olympic team that refused to wear Peruvian colors at the Opening ceremonies, Roberto Carcelen has produced some positive press for the land of the Incas.  Roberto finished the 15 kilometer classical race the other day, and carried the Peruvian flag across the finish line as he did so, despite the fact that he was skiing with two broken ribs.  Leading up to the event, there was some doubt as to whether Roberto would be able to participate in the event at all, but in the end he decided that it was more important to represent his home nation, even if he wouldn't be skiing at his best.

In a heart-warming twist to the tale, when Carcelen crossed the finish line, he found Gold medalist Dario Cologna of Switzerland awaiting him with a congratulatory hug.  You can watch a video of Roberto's effort at Sochi here.

Congratulations on an admirable Olympic performance Roberto!  It's a wonderful thing to represent your nation on a world stage, and do so in a way that garners the respect and admiration of your fellow competitors!  That is the essence of the Olympic ideal!

Que Viva El PerĂº!

Reminder: CyclovaXC Championships on Saturday, Feb. 15h 8AM

Hey Folks,
Just a reminder about our little FREE race and Birkie tune-up taking place at Big Rock Creek this Saturday, Feb. 15th.  We're planning on racing at 8 AM and according to the forecast, it's going to be a beautiful day!

Make sure you register on our Facebook event to let us know to keep our eyes out for you!

Again, all are welcome, but this is an unsupported, semi-casual race (if that's possible).  The idea is to provide a final Birkie tune-up without burning you out too much for race day.

If you don't know where Big Rock Creek is, there is a map on this page.

I'll be out marking the course on Friday, but unless I encounter some major issues, it will be the following:
To explain it:
We'll go out up that trail that goes along the river and then take a right.  Then we'll be going up that massive climb before turning left and following the Southern fence line before turning North and meandering back.  We will then do another loop (featuring that big hill again), before returning down the river trail to the finish area.

Afterwards, we'll all head over to CyclovaXC for a pot luck, so bring some food!

Also, bring your skis if you're planning on having CyclovaXC prepare them for the Birkie.  There are some specials going on right now, and the earlier you get your equipment in, the better!

Cheers, and see you Saturday!

2014 BIRKIE Ski Service At Cyclova XC - 20% Discount If You Get Your Skis In Early!

Rely on the Waxing Gurus at Cyclova XC to help you have the fastest skis ever!  Here Duane irons in a Flourocarbon overlay - a tactic that we will use for the 2014 Birkie!
CyclovaXC Birke Wax options
  • Racer HF Flourocarbon Hot Wax:  20 Step process, 4 layer hot wax (1 layer each - Hydrocarbon, LF, HF, Flourocarbon Overlay)  $79.99: A professional wax job sure to give you ultra-fast skis!
  • Racer HF Hot Wax:  15 Step process, 3 layer hot wax (1 layer each - paraffin, LF, HF)  $54.99: A super fast wax job that will have you smiling as you cross the finish line in Hayward!
  • 20% Early Bird Discount if you drop your skis off prior to 3PM on Sunday, February 16th!

It's been a great ski season, with great snow throughout the region for most of the season.  The pinnacle of xc ski season is rapidly approaching:  The American Birkiebeiner!  In fact, we just released the official Cyclova XC Racing Service 2014 Birkie Wax Tip!  We look forward to the Birkie all year, and you'll see a small army of Cyclova XC skiers (all with fast skis) out on the course this year!  This is going to be so much fun!  
Part of having fun in any ski race is having fast skis, and Cyclova XC would love to help you have the fastest skis out on the race course!  With the Birkie being the biggest ski race in the country, on the continent, or even in the Western Hemisphere - we will be stonegrinding, hot boxing, and waxing a WHOLE LOT OF SKIS for this event!  For this reason, we are strongly encouraging Birkie racers to bring in their race skis EARLY for Birkie waxing/service.  

There will be a strong incentive (DISCOUNT) to bring in your skis early for Birkie service, which will allow us to do the time consuming prep stages in advance on your skis, rather than hustling everything at the last minute.  We will wait to do the final wax of the day and flourocarbon application until just before you pick up your skis.


Drop off schedule and sliding fee schedule for Cyclova XC's Birkie Ski Service Program
  • EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT:  Drop off your skis prior to 3PM on Sunday, February 16 and get a 20% discount on any ski service for the Birkie.  See Birkie ski service rates below.  When you drop off your skis, let us know when you'd like to pick them up, so we can ensure they're ready to go for you!
  • WEDNESDAY:  Drop off your skis during business hours on Wednesday, and pay the below published rates on your Birkie ski service.  When you drop off your skis, let us know when you'd like to pick them up, so we can ensure they're ready to go for you!
  • DON'T PROCRASTINATE!:  Customers dropping off Birkie skis for service on Thursday will pay a $20 late premium charge on any ski service done.   This $20 will be used to caffeinate our late night ski waxing crew - which is the same crew as our daytime crew!
Cyclova XC Birkie Ski Service Menu and Pricing
  • Racer HF Flourocarbon Hot Wax:  20 Step process, 4 layer hot wax (1 layer each - paraffin, LF, HF, Flourocarbon Overlay) & hand structure if necessary $79.99
  • Racer HF Hot Wax:  15 Step process, 3 layer hot wax (1 layer each - paraffin, LF, HF) & hand structure if necessary  $54.99
  • Sport Hot Wax:  10 Step process, 2 layers Paraffin wax job, & hand structure if necessary $29.99
  • Stonegrind:  3 stage Stonegrind process, with finishing structure of your choice  $69.99
  • Race Prep Thermo Treatment:  AKA - 3 hydrocarbon layers in the Hotbox  $44.99
  • Stonegrind and Race Prep Thermo Treatment Combo:  $99.99
See you at the start of the 2014 American Birkiebeiner!  Photo by Ben Jonjak.

WAX TIP: 2014 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 structure of the day.

Following is the preliminary Cyclova XC Racing Service 2014 Birkie Wax tip for the 3 major wax brands of the region. Note that these are not officially endorsed wax tips by the wax companies, rather these are tips that I have personally created based on my 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. 

If you would like Cyclova XC's waxing guru's to wax your skis up for the fastest skis of your life, CLICK HERE for the full scoop!

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 22, 2014.

Want More Details???  I expect the conditions of the 2013 Birkie to be nearly identical to the 2014 Birkie, therefore, my wax tip is very similar to last years.  See a very detailed commentary on the logic behind last year's Birkie Wax Tip, which again, is very similar to the 2014 Birkie.  This will help the most hard core ski dorks (yes, we're proud dorks) understand the reasoning behind the below information.  There is also a wealth of ski tech info on the Cyclova XC Ski Tech page.

Forecast & Conditions:  Overnight low close to 10'F, with a temp in the mid teens at the start.  Daytime high will be in the low 20's, with partly a primarily overcast sky. A light mix of snow and sleet is likely leading up to and during the race.  The snow temp will be relatively cold.  Expect machined track conditions comprised of primarily packed powder, with a bit of fresh fallen snow on the surface.  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:  Moderate to soft flexed skis for machined track conditions with a bit of fresh snow on top.

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 Cold (Blue) Flourocarbon ironed (using the Fast Wax Base Saver) or roto-corked in, brush with dedicated flouorcarbon brush, and polished with polishing pad.  **NOTE:  As a more affordable alternative to Flite Flourocarbon, try the NEW Fast Wax Race Pro Arctic Arctic Paste - in stock at Cyclova XC**
Fast Wax (Wave 4 and later): HS-20 Blue, Scrape, Brush, HSLF-20 Blue, Scrape, Brush, HSF-20 Tan, 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 **NOTE:  As a more affordable alternative to Flite Flourocarbon, try the NEW Fast Wax Race Pro Cold Paste - in stock at Cyclova XC**
Swix (Elite through Wave 3):  LF-4, Scrape, Brush, HF-4, Scrape, Brush, FC-7 (Cold Cera) ironed in, brush with dedicated flouorcarbon brush, and polished with polishing pad
Swix (Wave 4 and later)  LF-6, Scrape, Brush, HF-6, Scrape, Brush, FC-8 (Medium Cera) ironed in, brush with dedicated flouorcarbon brush, and polished with polishing pad
Toko (Elite through Wave 3):  Tribloc LF Black / Tribloc LF Blue mix (1 : 1 Ratio) Scrape, Brush, Tribloc 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):   Tribloc LF Black, Scrape, Brush, Tribloc HF Blue/HF Red mix (1 : 1 Ratio), 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 - Cyclova XC still has a few in stock).

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 be 3-4 thin, smoothly corked layers of Toko Blue (later wave skiers who want more grip will likely enjoy 3-4 thin, smoothly corked layers of Toko Red).


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!


North End Classic Race Report

Sweet tracks.  Photo credit Roberta Mullin.


Time for a much more upbeat race report than my last one.

Pre-Race

We should start with this week overall.  I was freaking out a little bit that the Birkie was in three weeks and I didn't think I had as many longer skis in as I did last year.  I blame the cold and illness.  I managed to get out for two 2.5 hours days this week and that certainly helps for the upcoming Birkie, but probably isn't the best prep for a 25k race.  I didn't ski at all on Saturday and just focused on getting my skis waxed, hydrating and carboloading.  Come Sunday morning I felt pretty good other than a little tired from the 5:00 am wake-up call to get to Cable by 9:00 am.

The nice thing about that 5:00 am wake-up call?  My parents were going to come with and take some pictures and bring my boys to watch the race.  This meant that my dad could drive and I could snooze on the ride up.  Sweet!  Thanks Mom and Dad.

Ski Prep

For skis, I prepped following the Fast Wax recommendations for glide and Swix for kick.  For glide I put in a layer of HS-10, two layers of LF-10, and a layer of HF-10.  I don't have any cold pure flouros so I skipped that.  For kick I ironed in the VG-35 binder, ironed in a layer of Blue Extra (V40), and then did 3 layers of VR-30 making each layer slightly shorter than the previous.  I haven't classiced much previously so my kick wax skills are pretty weak and all I can do is follow the directions as best I can.  How much binder do you put on and then iron?  Do you cork after ironing?  What is a "thin layer"?  How do I "match the shape of my kick wax pocket"?

The verdict was that it all worked very well.  My skis were on par with others I skied with.  Maybe a little faster than some, a little slower than others.  The kick was good without any noticeable drag.  I slipped a couple of times, but that had more to do with technique and fatigue than wax I think.  I was still kicking at the end so it all held up well for the 25km of cold snow.

The Race

OK, on to the race.  I started in the fourth row right next to Jim Kelley.  This is the closest I've started to the front.  Considering there were only about 8 lanes there weren't that many people ahead of me.  The start was clean, except 100m into the race where it went from 8 wide to 4 wide, on a hard left onto the Birkie Classic trail, up a slight hill.  Other than that little mess in which I didn't see anyone actually go down it was clean.

Me and Jim at the start of the race.  Photo credit Kelly Randolph.
It broke up into a few groups pretty quick.  The leaders were long gone, but I found myself in a group of about 10 people.  This group held together through about four of five km where I and two or three others came unhitched from the back of the group.  For the remainder of the first lap I skied with two other guys.  One indicated the guy pulling ahead on the double pole sections was a world class paddler.  In general we skied as a group alternating leads randomly.

Somewhere nearing the lap.  Photo credit Kelly Randolph
I lead the last km or so into the warming house for the first lap.  I had a very momentary concern about going another whole lap.  Then it went away.  Pulling back out onto the main trail from the little connector trail from the warming house I noticed I had somehow dropped the two guys I had skied the last half a lap with and there were two guys a ways up the trail, but no longer out of sight.

Over the next few km I managed to reel in Ski Hut guy (per the results Casey Krueger) and UofM guy.  Ski Hut guy had been a little ways back of UofM guy, but as I caught them Ski Hut guy and I pulled quickly away from UofM guy.  We skied together for a few more km and then somewhere between the Timer Trail crossings we spotted a few more guys up the trail.  Two specifically and one little glimpse of what appeared to be a few more.  I asked Ski Hut guy if we were going to go get them and his was response was "I hope so".

Well I went and caught the next guy, losing Ski Hut in the process.  I then went after the next guy.  Despite doing what I felt was hammering (it was actually going as fast as I had the first lap) he was slow to pull in.  I caught him with about 1km to go.  I pushed hard thinking I could drop him.  Turns out I couldn't, but I did still manage to hold him off in the downhill sprint to the finish line.

Hammering for the finish.  Photo credit Barry Mullin.
Summary
Post race festivities at Rivers Eatery


What a great race.  Good course, good people, good company, and I skied well.  Even before looking at any results or running the analysis I felt like it was a good race.  I skied hard, didn't bonk, and finished strong.  The pace certainly exceeded my pre-race expectations.

Race Results

The results were good.  22nd overall and 3rd in my age group are solid in my book.  Unfortunately I collected the 2nd place age group mug at Rivers Eatery.  It was loud and when I told the guy Ben Mullin and he repeated Ben Menk and I said yup, neither of us heard clearly.  Yes, second in my age group was Ben Menk.  Pretty easy to get confused in a very crowded and loud Rivers Eatery.  I'll be swapping my mug out Birkie Weekend.

Nerding out comparing this race against past races.

My nerdy spreadsheet agrees, it was my best race since I started skiing again.  My spreadsheet looks for people who did both races and then calculates a trend line to equate one race time to another.  It isn't perfect for many reasons and with smaller numbers of co-racers it is less accurate.  Combine this with how the race felt though and I have to agree it was a good race.

What's Next

This coming Saturday is the CyclovaXC Championships at Big Rock Creek.  I'm really looking forward to this low key hammerfest (can you have a hammerfest be low key?).  Then, there is that Birkie thing the following Saturday.  I'm definitely feeling feverish.

I'm looking forward to seeing a lot of green the next few weekends!

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, February 13th. 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.
Selfie shots from the trails at our last night ski

Looking forward to another great evening on skis!
See you there!

Cheers~ Kristen

What are Conditions Really Like at Sochi?

Roberto Carcelen being introduced at Sochi, it's nice to hear the Peruvian national anthem being played. I also enjoy how a person near the camera is compelled to sing along. 

Anybody who has been on the internet at all over the last few days has been inundated with stories about the "deplorable" conditions at Sochi.  I've read articles such as this one which claim the hotels are in a state of disorder.  I also found this article which says that computers are being hacked.

My initial reaction to this was disappointment and compassion (just like it is for everyone else), but once I started thinking about it, I thought these stories might be unfair.  After all, some of the "issues" sited in the "poor hotel" article referenced above were that there were no batteries in the remote control.  Really?  You're super upset about that?  The reports I read said that the Olympic village was fine, it was just some of the hotels housing members of the media that were "unfinished," and it occurred to me that perhaps these hotels were housing "soft" journalists who complained about everything.  Then I started to get annoyed, because I'd like to go to Sochi too, and if I went there I would be taking pictures of athletes and enjoying the experience rather than complaining about the hotel.

Well, I expressed this opinion on a couple Facebook threads, and I was surprised to get a semi negative response (from a couple of them, other people said, "EXACTLY!").  So, I decided to be fair.  I actually have a couple friends who are competing at Sochi, so I wrote them emails asking them to tell me about the conditions.  They responded right away.

What I learned is that there is really only one thing of real concern at Sochi: Terrorism.  

Here is the email conversation I had with Roberto Carcelen (Athlete from Peru) and Andy Liebner (Roberto's Coach).

Ben:
Hey Roberto and Andy, We're getting a lot of news reports here in the states that the lodgings are inadequate, and people are getting their computers hacked. Has that been your experience? 

Andy Liebner:
I haven't heard anything about any computer hacking. We did stay our first night in the town Adler outside of the Olympic Village and they were about like a hostel at best. Everything is extremely high security around the Olympic venues as well as to and from each site. Police are mostly within eyesight of each other. 

Roberto Carcelen:
All good here Ben, I haven't heard anything other than international Media comments. 

So far life in the Olympic Village is safe however, I had couple interviews this afternoon in town and I have to say, just standing around in public places doesn't feel secure anything could happen and fast. 

Ben:
Thanks guys! I hope you stay safe and comfortable!

End of Communication

It's always rather amusing/frustrating to follow up on reports out of the US Media.  It starts to make you wonder if there's any accurate reporting anywhere!  If anyone else has further information, please send it to me at bj@cyclovaxc.com.  I'd be happy to post your photos and your take on the matter.

Stay safe athletes!