Saturday, January 10th was the 6th annual Sisu Ski Fest. This is becoming one of the great races of the area, and you can register for 2016 THIS WEEKEND ONLY for $50. That's a great deal, and I know from organizing events that event directors appreciate early registrations. You always kind of freak out as the bills pile up for your event as you wait around for people to register.
We had a ton of CyclovaXC racers making the trip up from the St. Croix area to participate. It's fun to hang around at the start of an event with all that nervous energy and be able to see all your friends. They have a couple nice warming huts up there at ABR so it's very comfortable prior to the race. I think my favorite time is about an hour before the start of one of these races where people are nervous and excited. That's a really fun moment to share with people.
This year, we were all concerned because the temperature was so low that they'd shortened the race to 31 km. The overnight low was -9, and there was a bit of a concern because of the wind, race day temperature was around -1. I think the race directors made the right choice to shorten the race. More importantly, they moved the start back 90 minutes. I've started marathon events at -9 before, but there's a big difference between -9 in January and -9 in February (I'm being serious--the February sun is significantly warmer than January sun). Also, this is the first distance race of the year, so I think a lot of people (myself included) haven't quite worked themselves into race condition for a marathon length event in slow conditions.
It was cold, but we had a beautiful day. The sun was out and the wind wasn't much of an issue. The trail was in tremendous shape. It's always fun when you can still see the corduroy even when you're starting in one of the later waves. ABR has some of the best grooming of any ski area in the midwest, and that alone makes this a must attend event.
All the wave starts went off cleanly and racers were fun and courteous. As always, once we got going I found myself overheating a little bit. Prior to the race, I'd talked myself into an additional smartwool T-shirt, and I probably could have left that off. It always takes a race to remember how hot you get once you start hammering. The concern with overdressing is that you sweat so much you dehydrate, then you start to get chilled or cramp up. That didn't happen though and I was able to get in and get the first race of the 2015 season under my belt (always an achievement).
The trail kind of played head games with you because they still had the KM markers up as if it were a 40KM event. We hit the top of the hill just prior to the Poplar plunge and the KM mark said 26, so you're thinking, "OK only 5 more." Then there was a water station at KM 30 and the thought was, "oh...that's odd..why is there a water station here with only 1 KM to go...unless....NOOOOOO!!!!" Yeah...it turned out there were 10 more KM, but it was all good! I figured I'd be feeling worse with 10KM left to go at the Birkie so this was good preparation. Main street was hopping as it always is and it felt good to get done and changed into dry clothing (they have an enclosed area for that as well at Sisu). Check out all the results here.
Everybody got in safe and sound with no frostbite or other mishaps. Fun, fun start to the season! Next up, Marine O'Brien! See you there!