Mullin's 2015 Birkie Race Report

Well more than just a race report, but you should expect that by now.  I've had a few nice comments lately on my reports.  I appreciate it.  I'd probably still write them anyhow, because I like reading other people's reports and I find it a good way to process the event.

Speaking of which, why don't you write one of your own for the Birkie?  Ben or I would be happy to help format it and put it on the blog.  No it doesn't have to be a novel like mine.  Short and sweet is good too.

Birkie Week Prep

Things went reasonably well in the week leading into the Birkie.  I had some pretty conflicting advice from some pretty successful skiers.  "Keep the fires hot!" and "Shut it down!  Rest!".  In the end I did a little of both.  I actually would have preferred to get another short race in the weekend prior and ski more the week of, but the weather wasn't cooperating.  In my mind, racing and intervals the week of the race when the temps were below zero were likely to leave me hacking and/or sick.  In the end I got some short pick-ups in twice in the lead-up and didn't ski Wednesday through Friday.  I would have preferred to ski one of those days.

I got my skis prepped Thursday night/Friday morning.  My softish Fischer Carbonlite Skate Plus skis with Fast Wax HS-10 x 2, HSLF-10 x 2, HSF-10, HSF-10 + Toko X-cold, Holmenkol Speedblock Cold ironed in with the Fast Wax basesaver.  My skis ran great all day.  I can't recall a time I was getting out glided and I was definitely killing a number of people on the downhills.

We headed for Birkie land about noon on Friday, got our bibs and did the expo thing, drove past the International Bridge, picked up our Pre-Birkie sweatshirts, and then had dinner at Frankies Pizza.  We retired to our accommodations which had an accumulated 51 Birkies under the roof.  There is so much energy in that place it is awesome.

Getting autographs from Brian Gregg at the Expo.  He took 8th the next day and his wife just took Bronze at the World Championships!

After the usual wake-up call and departure time debate I retired as the discussion took a turn for the macabre with pigs swinging from the International Bridge.  I was all set and quickly fell a sleep.  My Birkie rookie was a little more amped up and I guess they went to bed eventually, but I was OUT!

Ready
Birkie Morning

My alarm went off at 4:00 and I was up.  Coffee, cold oatmeal, dressing, the first of many "skis, boots, poles" and I was ready to go.  We were out the door for the drive from Spooner to Donnellan Field by 5:07.  Traffic and transport were smooth all morning long.  On the bus in Hayward at 6:06 and after a slightly nauseating bus ride (welcome to the back of the bus), we were at Telemark by 6:40 give or take.

The drop off location and short walk down were great.  The port-o-potties by the drop off were excellent as well.  Short line and a good idea for those of us well hydrated already!  I also enjoyed the quirky signs on the walk down.  The picture is garbage, but they were all similar to this.

"When Hayward you reach, look as good you will not."  See the picture at the end to see if Birkie Yoda was right...
I was full of nervous energy in the warming tent.  The tents seemed good to me this year.  Pleasantly full, some number of chairs, and warm enough.  I took a trip through the port-o-pot lines, and used one impromptu, male only, rest break area.

Team camaraderie pre-race.
One of my process goals for the race was to get a good start.  I've had a habit of being late to the start line lately and wanted to be sure I was near the front of the gong show that is the Wave 1 start.  I nailed it.  Bag drop went smooth and I was standing near the entrance to the gate as they let us in.  I was maybe 3rd row on the far right.  I made the run for each gate without too much issue except the start gate.  My bottle bounced out of my belt.  I skidded to a stop and gave a moments thought to charging back for it.  I thought better of it and headed for the start.  I was maybe 5th row then.  As  I slapped my skis on the ground I realized that my skis were now holding my place so I went back and got my bottle.  Crisis averted.

T-5 minutes.  Ready.

Except Wilkie who shouted over saying he pulled his hamstring on the run up.  What!?!  Holy crap, how about training for a year to get injured with 5 minutes to go.  He toughed it out though and finished, but damn.

Race Plan/Goals

Before I dive into the race, I'll outline my plan/goals so you can follow along through the report and see if you grade me out like I grade myself.

Process Goals (Control what you can):
1) Don't Bonk - Combination of pacing and nutrition
2) Get near the front of the start ready to race
3) Arrive at the race healthy and with all my stuff
4) Have fun

Results Goals:
A) Elite wave.  What self respecting first waver doesn't think they belong in the elite wave?  No seriously, this was a long shot goal.  I honestly did not believe it would happen this year, but hey, I can't say I wasn't thinking it.
B) Top 300 male.  This seemed hard, but achievable.
C) Top 400 male.  This seemed like a small move up from 469 last year and about a solid possibility based on this year's races.
D) Wave 1 qualifying time.  Geeze, I better not take a step back at least.

Race

Almost a thousand words and I haven't even started yet.  Maybe you should refill your coffee?

OK, I had a lot of angst about this start.  I have heard a lot of about the Wave 1 start, and pretty much none of it good.  Something about skiing with 600 other skiers amped up on Birkie Fever all who believe they should be in the Elite Wave.  I expected complete carnage which is why I participated in the pre-race pen race.  It turned out fine from my perspective.  I saw one person go down, but otherwise it was clean.  I can't say what happened behind me.

Incredible photo of the start from www.DavidJOwen.com.  I can't quite pick myself out in there.  The snow falling at the start was so cool.
Again, my goal was to stay towards the front early and stay out of the chaos.  My plan was to keep the pace high, but not too high, until the power lines and then settle in.  Plenty of room for people to pass on the power lines and not get too worked up.  This all seemed to go pretty darn well.  Through the first aid station I was doing alright.  A touch too hard perhaps, but I felt WAY better than the Pre-Birkie.  I felt in control, not all tense, and I didn't feel like I was pressing at all.  Heart rate until the power lines was definitely low, but a touch high averaging 174 with peaks of 178 climbing them.

I skied right through the first aid station with my own bottle and gels on board not wanting to get tangled.  Off into the woods the trail was plenty soft on the edges.  Untouched fresh fluffy powder along lots of the trail still.  I continued to try to settle into a reasonable pace.  I was getting passed and not passing and doing my darnedest not to care.  Heart rate from 5-10k averaged 174.  Still too high, but again, I continued to feel in control compared to two weeks prior.

Coming through Timber Trail I took my first gu and maybe grabbed some water to go with a swig off my Gatorade I was carrying.  The climb to the high point continued to be a little hot.  I was letting people go past and not trying to stick to anyone.  Finally after cresting the high point things started to settle in.  From there through the climb to OO I really settled in and felt pretty good.  A little spiky on the climbs such as Boedecker, but on average just cruising.

The climb to OO was a beast as usual.  I tried choking on my second Gu at that point.  It was hard, and hard to swallow.  I probably got about 2/3 of it down I think washed down with some Gatorade from my bottle and a cup of water.  I was feeling pretty good at this point.  I felt like I could be going harder, but I was really concerned about a bonk so I kept telling myself to hold back.  My only concern was a side stitch that I normally don't get while skiing.  I thought maybe I wasn't processing the calories I was taking in.

Mike Phernettton and I had been skiing within sight of each other basically the whole race.  As we headed down Picnic Table Hill he told me I had the skis and the fitness for the day.  I thought he was probably right.  I don't remember much through the next stretch past Gravel Pit other than skiing as relaxed as possible.

Then a few wheels fell off.  It was shocking really how quickly it happened.  I hit 33km and suddenly my vision started going funky and my arms felt like they didn't respond right.  Oh crap.  In my haze I knew I was bonking but somehow convinced myself that taking in more calories wasn't going to help because my stomach was still uncomfortable.  I thought just make it to Frank at 38km and get some Coke.  In hind sight I had only had maybe 180 calories from my two Gus and another 50 from my Gatorade.  For two hours of work that isn't going to cut it.

I held it somewhat together until the CyclovaXC feed station just before Mosquito Brook.  Just a quick aside... this was AWESOME!  Knowing I was going to get a personal hand-up and someone cheering specifically for me was so cool.  Many thanks to Frank, Neal, Todd, and Maaren for manning the station.  And thank goodness I didn't peg Neal in the camera lens with my bottle.  I wasn't sure who it was that I almost hit but tossing my bottle I just about hit him right in the face.  Afterwards I asked him if it was him and he said he didn't think so.  In review of the pictures though... incoming!

The next picture has the bottle mid-air between me and the camera.  Glad I missed Neal!
OK, I tossed my nearly empty bottle of Gatorade for a fresh one and a glass of flat Coke.  Mike was right behind me and we took off together.  I rolled through the Mosquito Brook aid station and prepared to climb.  I wobbled my way up the Mosquito Brook/39k hill.  A little rolling after that and Mike came even with me and asked if that was Bitch Hill.  I grunted no and pointed around the corner as it came into view.

Mike took the lead and I exploded spectacularly.  I just about came to a complete stop about 2/3 of the way up.  Just about dunzo.  I somehow finished the climb and watched as Mike slowly increased the 20 second gap he put on me on the hill and disappeared into the distance.  I wasn't quite into death V1 skate mode, but close.  As with previous years I don't remember much about the rest of the trip to the lake.  I do remember thinking about how far I had to go in terms of laps at Elm Creek though.  "Just 3 more Elm Creek laps to go... I can do this."

Last year as I hit the lake all I could do was V1 and watch people pass me and disappear.  This year I was able to find a pair of skiers to draft and hold a respectable V2 behind them.  As we neared the exit to the lake I was even able to pull around and lead off the lake, past Market Place, up the bridge, and onto Main Street.

The trip up Main Street was pretty cool.  I dug the bridge big time.  I really felt like it gave me the momentum to "power" it in to the finish.

Soaking up all the glide I can off the bridge.

Almost there.

Birkie 3 in the books.  3:07:21.  437 Male, 477 Overall.



The Start of Post Race Analysis

So how did the goals shake out?

Process Goals:
1) Don't Bonk - Well, uh, yeah, guess that is a no.
2) Get near the front of the start ready to race - Win.
3) Arrive at the race healthy and with all my stuff - Win.
4) Have fun - Win.  I didn't emphasize it above, but really, it was an awesome weekend as always.  Results are only part of what makes the Birkie fun.

Results Goals:
A) Elite wave - Yeah, this was super stretch anyhow.  Missed by 16:28
B) Top 300 male - Missed this by 8:26
C) Top 400 male - Missed this by 2:24
D) Wave 1 qualifying time - Assuming they return to the same % back they used for the last few years other than last year, I just squeaked in under 3:08:14.

Another marker, I believe the 25% club for the M35-39 age group is 3:05:23.  So missed that by 1:58.

So process wise, 3/4, results wise 1/4.  So yeah, disappointed with the results, but I can't be too disappointed based on nailing most of the process goals.  Had I nailed the first process goal, I could possibly have improved the results goals as well.

I haven't gone all nerdy on the data yet.  I'm reasonably certain what I will find is that this is a better result than last year, but not as good a result as the earlier season races may have indicated was possible.  That is why  you actually have to do the real race, not just write VB macros in Excel.

In all, it was a fantastic weekend as usual.  Results are a small fraction of what makes this a fun event.

What's Next

One more race this year.  Pepsi Challenge at Giants Ridge on 3/7.  I was going to classic it, "just for fun" as Tommy would say.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to skate it now though.  Another opportunity to practice this marathon thing and see if I can't figure it out.

Oh then there is this...


Adventure & Tech Social Series: THURSDAY FEBRUARY 26th at 6 p.m. : Paddling Adventures & Fat Bike Evolution and Tech

Duane and Debby Lee unplug from day-to-day routine to paddle the Stikine River by canoe

YOU'RE INVITED:
Join us tomorrow, Thursday, February 26th at 6 p.m. for the next installment of our Adventure and Tech Social Series! Feature presenters this week are Cyclova XC's Duane Lee and Frank Lundeen!

Adventure: Duane Lee presents "Following John Muir: Paddling the Stikine River."  This is a short film on Duane's 2014 paddling adventure that covered 200 miles of the Stikine River, departing from Northern British Columbia and ending in Wrangell, Alaska. The Stikine River is one of the last truly wild rivers of North America. The glacial-lined gorges of the lower Stikine have been likened to "100 miles of Yosemite" by John Muir, one of America's most influential naturalists. Don't miss out out on this epic adventure tale of Cyclova XC's very own Duane Lee!

Tech: Frank Lundeen, co-owner of Cyclova XC, discusses the fat bike industry's rapidly changing capabilities and technologies. He'll give an overview of the history of fat biking, tech tips, and introduce you to the cycling gear that has been a total game-changer for harsh winters in the Midwest. They say "Fatter is Funner"- come find out why!





Complimentary beverages will be served, along with ample time for socializing between presentations!

For the full scoop on the entire Winter / Spring series of Cyclova XC Adventure and Tech Social Events, CLICK HERE

2015 Birkie Race Report

Another American Birkebeiner is in the books!  That makes 13 for me, 28 for my mom, and one more for all my close skier friends (and the first one for a few of them).  For many of us, the Birkie isn't just the pinnacle of the ski season, it's the peak of the whole year! I know that I got to see a lot of you on Birkie day, and it's so much fun to run into folks and say hello in the nervous moments before the race begins. For those of you I didn't see, I'm looking forward to swapping Birkie tales the next time our paths cross.

After last year's impossibly difficult Birkie, I was hoping this year would be a bit easier.  My training was certainly better, and I'd been doing marathon races like the Pre-Birkie and Badger State games much faster than any time in the last 5 years.  However, the Birkie is not like the other races on the ski calendar. It is always tough!  We had good conditions temperature wise, but a couple inches of snow accumulation the night before the race made the trail pretty slow (especially for those of us in the later waves).  I ended up finishing in 4:20, which was faster than last year, but still on the slow side. Honestly, it's been kind of funny because since I moved back to the US from Peru in 2009 I've been in better shape every year for the Birkie only to have my times get slower and slower!  Trail conditions can mess with you.  

Still, your Birkie experience should not be about your final time. It's about your friends, and it's about having motivation to maintain your fitness year round.  I'll be turning 40 soon, and I feel much better now than I did in my early 30s, mainly because of the positive effects of a fitness lifestyle. The best time of the year is the couple hours spent with friends in those nervous moments before the race. It's crazy, but when you're waiting in the warming tent before the Birkie starts, it feels like you're a million miles away from every other aspect of your life.  You might as well be on the moon!

This year I zip tied a gopro to my water bottle carrier just to grab some pics.  The batteries went dead on it within about 45 minutes (I'll use lithium batteries next year), but I still got some neat pics of the starting area frenzy.  
As with every year, we were dang near the first people to arrive at the warm-up tent. We pretty much always plan to get in the first bus up to Telemark. It seemed especially critical this year because we suspected the international bridge (which cut road traffic down to 1 lane) might impede traffic.  I haven't heard any stories yet about people arriving late...but it always happens to somebody.

Honestly...I'd rather get to the start early and sacrifice a half hour of restless sleep anyway.
Here we are enjoying ourselves before the race.  My mom always brings a 12 pack of snickers bars as last minute fuel.
You can see how much it was snowing in this picture.  For some reason, the organizers decided to put the bathrooms facing each other in two rows. There was an entrance at one end and an exit at the other.  The problem with this was that it created a huge line. My suspicion is that there were also probably plenty of port-a-pots sitting there empty as people waited in line (since the guy/gal at the front line sometimes isn't paying attention when people finish and walk off).  I think they should go back to one row of port-a-pots.  This is a minor criticism, but something to consider.
Micah and I at the start. I'd stashed our skis over by the Norwegian flag (I thought that appropriate). Those new green one way jackets we have are awesome. Toasty warm before the race (and after).
About a half hour before race time, it's time to strip down. It's cold waiting around in your ski clothing for a half-hour, but you need to give yourself time to drop off your gear bag and find your starting gate.
Handing off my gear bag.  The gear bag has a number stuck on it with a sticker, and this guy had the genius idea to also write the number on in magic marker (in case the number fell off).  Cold weather does bad things to adhesives.  This guy probably saved some lives that day.
On the way to the bag drop off, I ran into Eric T. Olson. Everybody's got the same idea in the minutes leading up to the start.
Mitch juggling with his gear bag and equipment in the moments leading up to the start.
Random skier waiting in line to be let into the starting area.
As we were waiting at the start, the fellow on the right discovered a bottle of powerade that had been left on the garbage can lid. I think he was thirsty. I figured the person who had left it there had probably already taken off, so we encouraged the guy to drink it. I think he did.
This couple sharing a hug of encouragement in the moments before the start. Micah also looks ready to go.
They finally let us in to the starting area.
At the finish, a long 4:20 later. I got hot early on and pulled off my hat and balaclava. I did the whole rest of the race with no hat (no, my ears never got cold).  At the finish, my wife and kids were waiting for me.

This was a tough Birkie, I was completely shot at the end. This year they decided to put the bag drop way up at the primary school, and it was a long walk. I was frozen solid by the time I got to my gear bag. I understand that they had good intentions of providing us with a nice warm place to change, but honestly, I wish the bag drop was closer. I have about a 10 minute window to get out of my wet skiing clothes after the race or I freeze solid, and I was pushing it after that walk to the bag drop. Hopefully that's something they change next year.  Everything else, though, was superb as only the Birkie can be.

Oh, and as per family tradition, I got my girls up early to have a picture with me in the morning. They were pretty groggy though:
Ok, that's it for this year! We're only 365 days away from the next one! I hope to see all of you at the starting area in 2016!  Great work team! Congratulations to all that participated! For those of you who still aren't convinced as to how awesome this race is, go out and pick up your copy of Beyond Birkie Fever!

Busy Times On Birkie Week At Cyclova XC!

Busy times in the ski service department at Cyclova XC this week!  Stonegrinding, hotboxing, and waxing - oh my!!!
Birkie week is always one of the busiest weeks of the year at Cyclova XC - and this year is no exception!  We've been hard at work stonegrinding, hotboxing, and waxing skis for Birkie skiers of all stripes - from elite racers to first timers.  We've also been getting daily shipments of wax, gloves, apparel, toe warmers, and and more to ensure we have the products that our Birkie skiing clients need.  

But, just because it's Birkie week, normal business doesn't stop.  We're grinding a fleet of skis headed out to the XC Junior National Championships in Truckee, CA, receiving truckload shipments of bikes,  selling a bunch of sweet fat bikes, and getting in bikes to be tuned up for Spring time (which is just around the corner). 

In short, there have been a lot of short mornings, long nights, and the sweet smell of ski wax happening - and we love it!  

Following are a few reminders for our Birkie skiing friends:
  1. We can still stonegrind or wax your skis for the race, but you MUST get them in ASAP - the sooner the better.  The time has passed to get in on the early bird Birkie waxing discount, but if you get them in today, normal pricing applies - tomorrow, there is a $20 premium for all Birkie skis that come in.  CLICK HERE  for the full scoop and pricing on Cyclova XC's Birkie ski service program.  Treat yourself to the fastest skis of your life at this year's Birkie!
  2. We feel pretty good about once again nailing the Birkie Wax Tip - which was the first wax tip published for the 2015 American Birkiebeiner.  For the full scoop and detailed commentary on the wax tip, CLICK HERE.
  3. GOT WAX?  We have one of the most extensive assortments of ski wax in stock in the country, with expertise second to none - including all of the wax and advise you'll need to get your skis flying for the Birkie.  Stop on by or call to pick up the wax you need to have to get your skis running for the big day!

Birkie Fever 2015! Come Thursday for the Birkie Legacy Bash!

The Birkie is rapidly approaching! I can feel the fever in the air! You know it's Birkie time when your friends and relatives from far away start blowing in and assembling in Hayward. I just heard that Emalea Landgraf is back in town ready to give it all out there from Cable to Hayward like so many years before!

At this point, the only thing you can do is try to stay healthy before the race. Last year I was so sick on Wednesday that I didn't even know if I'd be able to ski. Conditions ended up being so bad last year that physical health wasn't even much of a factor.  If you want to read about last year's race, check out this article titled "2014 Birkie Beat Down: The Beard Cost me 2 Hours" (I've heard that article called the greatest ever Birkie recap in the history of Western literature...I'm the one who said it, but it was said).

There's nothing in the forecast to suggest we're going to have a 2014 repeat. Just drink lots of fluids, stay healthy, and don't go out for any "hammer fest" final preparation skis. If you aren't in shape for the race now, it's too late to prepare. The Birkie is tough, this is simply not a race you can do unless you've trained.

I have to give a special shout-out to Marva Sahs who is making an attempt at her 28th Birkie. Honestly, I would have dropped out last year, but I knew she was in the race and she would have never let me live it down if I had quit (she's my mom :) ).  28 Birkies is pretty darn impressive!

For those of you doing your first ever Birkie, you need to read this article titled "The Ballad of Lone Wolf and the 2013 Birkie." This article has been called the greatest ever story of a first time Birkie Skier in the history of Western Literature (again...I said it, but it was said).

If you're fortunate enough to have some time off, I strongly suggest you head up to Hayward for the Birkie Fever Legacy Bash! The Birkie Office is in the middle of a tremendous fund raiser, and they are doing a great job making sure the Birkie will be here to stay for the foreseeable future!  Again, thanks to Ben Popp and everyone else involved on the board of directors for doing such tireless work to preserve this awesome, awesome Wisconsin event!  Tickets are $50 and proceeds go to the Birkie Legacy fund raiser, so it's totally worthwhile.  Get tickets here.  Read my write up about the event they did in Eau Claire here.

Finally, if you haven't picked up a copy of "Beyond Birkie Fever" yet, there's still time to get a Kindle copy and read the book to prepare you for the 2015 event.  "Beyond Birkie Fever" has been called "the greatest achievement in the use of written language in the history of the human race" according to the internet, that quote is attributed to Abraham Lincoln.  Honest Abe never lied. Get your copy here!

That's it for now folks!  Get 'em waxed and get some sleep (also, check out our Birkie Checklist...print the checklist out so you don't have to think when you're deep in the throes of BIRKIE FEVER!!!).  Good luck one and all!

Solstice Chase on Singletracks!

Check this out...Walter Rhein (the celebrated author of Beyond Birkie Fever) has an article featured on Singletracks about the Solstice Chase.  Please go check out the story, then like it and share it as much as possible. The bigger a hit it is on Singletracks, the more stories from our region will appear on this page. Thanks everyone for your support!  To check out the story, click here!

PRELIMINARY WAX TIP: 2015 American Birkiebeiner

Race day waxing can be hectic, so rest easy the night before the 2015 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 2015 Birkie Wax tip for the 4 major wax brands of the region. Note that these are not officially endorsed wax tips by the wax companies, rather these are tips that I have personally created based on my 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 21, 2015.

Want More Details???  I expect the conditions of the 2015 Birkie to be nearly identical to the 2013 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 0'F, with a temp of near 10'F at the start.  Daytime high will be near 20'F, with partly a mostly cloudy sky. The snow temp will be very cold.  Expect machined track conditions comprised of a mix of packed powder and old snow.  Some dirt will be present in the snow - particularly on the final 15 k of the Birkie course on the south facing hills - as well as in the vicinity of road crossings.  Classic tracks will be firm and somewhat glazed.  Due to the huge number of skiers going over the same snow (glazing and rounding off of the snow crystals), later wave skiers can wax a bit warmer than the early wave skiers. 

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 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-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!


Birkie Presentation TONIGHT at 6PM at CyclovaXC!

Are you all feeling the fever yet?  The Birkie is coming up fast!  Make sure you come to CyclovaXC tonight (Thursday, February 12th) at 6 PM for a fun presentation.  We're going to go over the checklist of what you need to know to navigate all the logistics of this great event and highlight the changes from last year.  Also, Frank Lundeen will be revealing his Birkie wax tip.  Finally, we'll be giving away one free entry to the Gandy Dancer Marathon!  It should be a fun and awesome time and we're looking forward to seeing each and every one of you!  Let the fever rage!

Here's the link to the Birkie's Interactive map which contains a lot of good information.

VALENTINES DAY: Get Your Honey Something Fun At Cyclova XC!!


All sorts of casual wear is in stock at Cyclova XC - From our new team parkas, merino wool jerseys, and a huge variety of cool cycling t-shirts!

Santa isn't the only holiday icon to shop at Cyclova XC - Cupid does too!  That's right, in the words of a female customer who was just in the store (who will go un-named...  but pay attention if your last name is Mullin), "I don't want flowers and boxes of chocolate for Valentines day - get me something I can use and something that will keep me warm".  

If you think your honey might think this way, you need to make a trip on over to Cyclova XC!  We've been bringing in all sorts of cool new gear to keep your Valentine warm & stylish!  

The latest thing in is our new Team Parka by One Way.  This is a top of the line technical parka with a retail value of close to $400 - custom embroidered and at the incredible price of $200 - available in flavors for both ladies and gentlemen!  Parkas not your thing?  Check out some of the following ideas:

Locally Geared necklaces, headbands, hats, and neck warmers are perfect for your Valentine - sourced from Osceola, WI! 
Hundreds of warm yet stylish hats to choose from - including Cyclova XC logoed team hats!
Seger - the best socks in the business will keep your Valentine's feet warm!

2015 St. Valentine's Day Hustle in Menomonie

In the weeks leading up to the Birkie it's good to find a fun event to do that isn't likely to blow you up for the big race.  Tod Griffith has been raving about the upcoming St. Valentine's Day Hustle which is set to take place in Menomonie this Saturday.  Apparently this is kind of a scavenger hunt/adventure ride that sounds really low key with the emphasis on having a few laughs.  

Here's a description from the event web page:

"The St. Valentine’s Day Hustle is an annual bike race in Menomonie, WI.

The race is held as close as possible to Valentine’s Day, and is open to anyone 21+ years old. It is an alleycat style race – which means that the race consists of a set of stops, and each rider must plan their own route to get to all the stops (in any order). Bring a bike, a pen or marker, registration fee and some stamina. It is also recommended to be prepared for any circumstances (hint: bags, beers, cash, appropriate clothing & gear, and other items have come in handy in the past). Terrain may be varied, so bike selection is key! The race will usually have checkpoints around town and on lake Menomin. Each year is different, and manned stops will have any activity that you must perform in order to get your stamp."

For more information, check out the Facebook page, or join up on the Facebook event.  If you go, please send me a write-up, this looks kind of awesome!

Wisconsin’s Birkebeiner Ski Race Seeks Volunteers

William Johnson is looking for Birkie aid station volunteers.  If you have friends or family that ski for Cyclova, this is by far the best way to see them and encourage them while they compete in the Birkie.  The gravel pit aid station comes right when skiers are starting to really feel the effects of the race, and a pick me up in the form of a friendly face is a huge assist!  Hope to see you out there--Ben

CABLE--In two weeks, the Olympics will come to Wisconsin in the form of the American Birkebeiner Ski Marathon, the largest ski race in the United States, Feb. 21. 

Celebrating 42 years of bringing skiers from all over the world to ski 52 kilometers from Cable to Hayward, the Birkie offers a unique opportunity to see Olympic-class athletes competing in our area. Athletes, and members of international skiing teams, who compete for their countries in Olympic years, will travel to northwest Wisconsin to ski the Birkie this year. Several million dollars are pumped into Northwest Wisconsin’s economy each year by the Birkie, and people stay as far away from Hayward as Siren, to be part of the event.

Over 12,000 skiers are registered to take part in Birkebeiner events that are held around the Hayward area Feb. 19-22.

Over two thousand volunteers are needed each year to provide liquids and on-course nutrition to the skiers during the race. There are nine food stations on the race route, spaced over the 52 kilometers, and race organizers are in need of volunteers every year to provide this support. This can be used as a community service project for most students. Volunteers receive Birkie hats and event pins, lunch, a volunteer party invitation with a chance to win door prizes. 

If you would like to be part of this rich history of the American Birkebeiner Ski Marathon, and would consider helping for a few hours on Saturday, Feb. 21, call local Birkebeiner Race Chief, William Johnson, at 715-327-4158 for more information. 

Every year there are skiers from almost all 50 States and as many as 20 Countries competing at the Birkie. This is a chance to show off the best of our country to the world. For more information on the race and its unique place in Wisconsin history visit: www.birkie.com

Mullin's 2015 Pre-Birkie Race Report


Executive Summary

Honestly a little disappointed in the results.  On the other hand, the goal of using this as an opportunity to practice race strategy and execution had some benefits.

Get your reading glasses ready.  Lots of words, and very few pictures to follow, and those are only interesting if you like charts and graphs (and who doesn't?).

Pre-Race

I was originally signed up for the 35k Mora Vasaloppet instead of the Pre-Birkie.  It would have been my first Vasaloppet if you don't count the 12km race I did when I was probably 13.  I was really looking forward to the race, but due to the unfortunate weather we are having they had to resort to a race on Lake Mora.  While I commend them for making a race happen, and by all accounts I've heard, it was a good one, I just could not bring myself to ski more tiny laps.  I wanted a near marathon length race before the Birkie to work on pacing and strategy.

11 days before the Pre, I played hooky from work and took off to Birkie land to do some skiing.  We got two skis in that day.  25 km out of the North End trail head skiing Power Lines to the High Point and back.  Then we went to OO and skied south to almost Mosquito Brook and back.  The second half was by headlamp trailing somewhere behind the groomer that was grooming the 2" of fresh fluff from the day before in.  It was by far the best ski of the year.  I ended up pushing that ski to 40 km with the last 15 km pushing reasonably hard.  I felt awesome and it was my longest ski day ever.  It did wipe me out a bit though.  I took it easy for a while to recover and then probably extended that recovery a little too long skipping out on any hard workouts the whole time.

The result was I came into the race a little cold.  Lesson number 1 for the day.

Race

I had a strategy going in to the race:

1) Start close to the front
2) Go hard across the lake
3) Reign it in on the initial hills
4) Ski smooth and strong through the turn around
5) Push with what was left

I did not execute that plan.

I got to the race a little later than planned.  Parking was busy, the walk to the lake was longer, and I had to pee for the third time in the last half an hour and I wasn't going to pee on the playground like I saw a number of people doing... seriously, anywhere but the playground guys.  Sheesh.

The result was I got lined up about 4 rows deep.  Two back of Wilkie.  So much for getting close to the front to go hard on the lake.  The gun went off and we were off.  It stayed clean from my vantage point, though I did hear a pole break behind me.  The gal was pretty pissed off and I heard quite a bit of swearing.  Before getting off the lake I caught up to Tim or he drifted back to me.  There was some skating, but a lot of double poling the whole way.

Up and off the lake, we hit the hills.  Things were pretty fast and furious.  The lines in front of me strung out quite a ways up and off into the distance.  I was pushing hard not to fade further into the pack.  Over the next 2 km until the descent down to 77, my HR averaged 178.  At one point in time, my ski threshold was lactate tested at about 172ish, and I have a max of 192.  In other words, I did not reign it in on the initial hills.  All the way through Mosquito Brook Hill/B Hill/39k/whatever you call that one I averaged 176.  So for the first 10 km/32+ minutes I was well over my threshold HR.  Probably not a good thing for a race that is going to be over 2 hours.  Lesson 2.

Going a touch too hard... for a long ways.
Also through that whole stretch I could NOT ski comfortably.  I have trouble for the first half hour of skiing to relax and not tighten up.  I seem to have poor balance and fight to control my skis.  The result is that my back tightens up as do the muscles on the front of my shins.  This takes far more energy than it should.  I'd call this a lesson, but I already knew this and I'm not sure how to fix it shorting of skiing for 30 minutes before a marathon...

Finally come about Gravel Pit I started to feel like I knew how to ski.  Instead of resorting to V1 to stay on my feet I was able to V2 comfortably and actually have good transitions through the terrain.  Of course I was already feeling the effects of 45 minutes of going hard and something on the order of 500+ feet of climbing.

This was about the last time I saw Wilkie.  He was roughly a minute up on me at this point but I could see the bright green CyclovaXC suit and his red hat disappear over the hill in front of me.

I skied reasonably well up to OO.  Picnic Table Hill I believe it is called, the big climb heading north to OO, was churned up fairly well, but I made it without blowing up.  I skied well across OO and put my head down for what I knew were going to be a few more climbs headed away from the finish line.  This is a mental battle to know you are now getting further from your destination and every time you go downhill, you are going to have to climb it.

I was somewhere between skiing OK and blowing up all the way to the turn around.  I even managed a little hard push shortly after the turn around to catch a guy in front of me to hopefully draft a bit.  Then the Boedecker hill.  I heard a few other names for it while hanging at Coops after the race.  I can understand the source of those names.  It took a good chunk out of me.  I wasn't completely blown, but I was on the edge.

Thankfully it is mostly downhill from there to OO.  My HR was dropping, but I knew that wasn't because I was recovering, it was because I was bonking.  I had gels with me, but I had not made them accessible enough and hadn't taken any.  I had Gatorade in my belt and had been taking that, but I was about out of energy.  Maybe partially for a lack of calories, but certainly from going too hard too early.  Lesson 3.

Why didn't anyone tell me this race was all up hill?
The climb to OO was hard.  Really hard.  I put my head down and kept going.  I'm pretty sure my vision was narrowing on that climb.  There was a whole pack in front of me, but I could not keep in contact with them.  I crested the hill and used what I had to get all the way back to the last descent as we turned back onto the Birkie skate trail to turn north for home.  I saved just enough to push up that last climb and sprint out the last 50 meters... for 85th place.

Post Race Analysis

So I said I was disappointed with the results.  I am.  Not devastated, but I was really hoping for more.

I already highlighted a number of lessons from this and those are things in my control for next time.  That is a positive thing.

I'm glad I managed to not blow completely in this race.  Maybe I've had enough marathon blow-ups now to learn.  This was a partial blow up.  I am going to keep telling myself that giving a little more ground at the start, can turn into gaining a lot in the later half instead of only giving a little at the start and then giving it up huge when I bonk hard.  Maybe I'll even believe myself in less than two weeks and not blow-up at 40 km this year.

So, cold hard numbers wise, again, not a complete disaster.  My slightly refined correlation, which now only takes into account the more pointy end of the race (to reduce the scatter caused by the less pointy end which I believe has more variability from race to race/year to year) still indicates an improved Birkie.  I can put a little more stock into this comparison as well because it is a marathon length race.  Everything else so far this year has been under 20 km.  You can use shorter races to extrapolate, but there is going to be more error.  Just like using the Daniels VDOT tables or the McMillan calculator and estimating your marathon based on a 5k, estimating the Birkie based on a 5 km race at Elm Creek isn't the best indicator.

74 racers in common between the 2014 Birkie and 2015 Pre-Birkie that were within 60% of the race winner.
Improvement over most of last year's races except North End Classic and Pepsi Challenge which were definitely my best races last year.  Pretty much across the board this year, my least favorable result.  No one said marathons were easy though.
So, now it is time to internalize those lessons, come up with a strategy for the Birkie, fine tune the engine, and stay healthy.  And do a little more snow dancing.  Not too much though.  Enough to clean things up and shore up the thin spots, but not enough to flounder in like last year.

Go Green.

2015 Pre-Birkie Race Report

Well, it's getting down to crunch time for the 2015 race season.  The Birkie is looming and for those of us crazy amateurs who circle that date on the calendar, the opportunities for race preparation are dwindling.  In much of the midwest, snow is a scarcity.  The poor folks in Mora had to resort to tilling up the lake ice to create a track (they did a fantastic job from what I heard).  There was some doubt as to what would be the condition of the Birkie trail, but those who raced yesterday have no complaints.

A week ago at Badger State Games I knew a cold was coming on.  That cold dogged me through the week, hitting a low point on Wednesday.  Thursday morning saw a little improvement, but no matter how much NyQuil I drank, progress was slow.  Still, the forecast for the Pre-Birkie was a low in the teens and a high in the 30s!  Those are the kind of days you DREAM about as a cross-country skier.  Heck, I don't know about you, but when I'm doing a 42km race when it's -10, the only thing that keeps me going is thinking, "yeah...this is miserable...but it will make the 25 degree races so much more fun!"  Having suffered through the sub zero 2015 Sisu marathon...I couldn't now miss the good weather race!

Sure, doctors and rational people will tell you that you shouldn't go do 42km races when you're sick.  However, you spend your whole year training -- dodging colds is just part of the equation.  Also, it occurred to me that when saber tooth tigers used to hunt primitive man on the primordial plain, it's not like primitive man could say, "don't chase me today...I have a cold."  Therefore the human body is capable of performing athletic feats even when semi-sick (the guys who couldn't run got eaten, so chances are we don't have them as ancestors).  So I decided to race.

We had a huge contingent of Cyclova skiers milling about on Lake Hayward in the jittery moments before the race.  Mike Colaizy of Wild River Fitness got a guy to snap the above photo.  Soon after we were bunched up and shivering as we awaited the starting gun.

If you've never skied the Pre-Birkie, the start is always interesting.  Just a little beyond the staging area, the course takes a mild right which always results in a bottleneck somehow.  I try to line up towards the middle of the pack, and just a few strokes into the race we were already snowplowing and avoiding the first pile-up.  From there the racers stretch across the lake, but the conditions were so fast that there wasn't a lot of room for separation.  As you come off the lake, there's another bottleneck, and then things start to widen out as you hit those hills.

Boy, the track was hard and fast!  I was trying to ski within myself not sure what effect my cold was going to have on me.  However, I felt pretty good all things considered.  Mentally, having a cold is tough because it's just another form of discomfort that you have to push through, but physically, once the motor gets revved up, it doesn't seem to affect you a lot.

There are really no bare spots along the Birkie trail at this point.  A couple of the snowmobile crossings are a little churned up and dirty, but there is a solid base.  Sure, it could use four or five inches between now and the Birkie, but right now, I think the race is good to go.

The Pre-Birkie is nothing but climb, climb, climb.  I don't think I've ever finished this race in under 3 hours, and this year I came in at 2:47, which I was psyched about.  With the warm weather, my wife brought the girls along to cheer me into the finish, then we all went out for pizza at Coops--spontaneous party!  In fact, there was so much excitement that my two little ones need an extra long nap today which has given me the time to write this.

Great, great weekend!  The peak is only a couple weeks away!  Oh, by the way, I'll be doing a "Birkie Tips and Tricks" presentation this Thursday, February 12th at 6PM at CyclovaXC.  We'll be giving away an entry to the Gandy Dancer Trail Marathon.  Hope to see you there!  Until then...Ski On!


Adventure & Tech Social Series: THURSDAY FEBRUARY 12th: BIRKIE EXTRAVAGANZA!

 

It's Birkie Fever season!  Join us on Thursday February 12th in celebration of the coming American Birkiebeiner!

YOU'RE INVITED:  Join us  for the "2015 Birkie" installment of the Adventure & Tech Social Series at Cyclova XC, in SCF, next Thursday night (February 12) - starting at 6PM.  Don't miss it!
Features of the event:
Adventure Presentation on the Cyclova XC 17' Big Screen:  Ben "Hugh" Jonjackman will be discussing "Birkie Tips and Tricks," a slide-show presentation designed to make your Birkie experience one hundred and fifty thousand percent more awesome!  Whether you're an experienced Birkebarbarian, or a first timer, Ben "Hugh" Jonjackman GUARANTEES he will present you with some golden nugget of information you've never thought of before.
Tech Presentation (also on the big screen, this time):  Frank Lundeen, co-owner of Cyclova XC will present the 2015 American Birkiebeiner Wax Tip.  Following the discussion of the Birkie Wax Tip, Frank will present 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!


Complimentary beverages will be served, along with ample time for socializing between presentations!

For the full scoop on the entire Winter / Spring series of Cyclova XC Adventure & Tech Social Events, CLICK HERE
 
After that we'll probably all head out for a beer somewhere.  It will probably be the greatest night of your life.  Circle the calendar, there will be NO excused absences!

Frank stonegrinding a ski on Cyclova XC's Wintersteiger Micro 100 Machine - the most advance machine in Wisconsin exclusively used for tuning Nordic skis.  Photo credit to David Gabrys