Candeleight Ski, Snowshoe, & Fat Bike Event on the Stower Sevel Lakes Trail - This Saturday, Jan 30!

Be a part of the xc ski, fat biking, and snowshoe community by joining us for the Candlelight Event this Saturday night!
A candellight ski/snowshoe/hike/fatbike ride is the quintessential Winter experience!  If you've never experienced a candlelight event - you owe it to yourself to be a part of it!  You & your friends are invited to join us for a celebration of Winter and quality trails this Saturday (Jan 30, 2016) night on the Stower Seven Lakes State Trail.

XC Skiers, Snowshoers, Hikers, and Fat Bikers are all welcome at this event.  This is also a superb opportunity to pick up your 2016 State Trail Pass so that you're ready for a great Summer of cycling on the Gandy Dancer and Seven Lakes State Trails!

In addition to this being a beautiful, well run event, it's particularly important to get a big turnout of silent sport trail enthusiasts at this event - so show our support and usership of these State Trails.  It's particularly important to do this now - as motorizing these trails is again coming up on meeting agendas of the Polk County Board (and various committees) in the very near future.  In short - come on out and enjoy this great event, and show your support of the trails by using the trails (and buying a trail pass)!

See you on Saturday night!

Mullin's MOB Race Report

Marine O'Brien Race 25km Skate


Pre-Race
Having skied for Forest Lake in HS, O'Brien was my second home for six winters.  In the five years I've been back to ski racing again this will be my fourth attempt at the MOB race.  Being my "home course" I've been hoping to have a great race here.  So far it hasn't happened.  In 2013 I was boots on the ground in the US for less than 24 hours after a week in Taiwan, 2014 I had the crud, and last year in 2015 I pulled a double header with the Seeley Hills Classic and a company holiday party Saturday before the MOB race on Sunday.

Going in to this race I've been feeling good.  My company party was on Saturday evening again, but I preceded it with an easy course preview instead of a race.  Conditions were about the same as last year, sketchy.  Coverage was mostly there, but there were some thin areas that I expected to get chewed up throughout the race.  It was also very lumpy and getting any flow was going to be a challenge.

I waxed up my well used B skis not wanting to turn any of my other skis into B skis.  My B skis are on the softer side and originally had a cold universal grind on them.  I'm guessing they have less structure now.  I followed the Fast Wax recommendations as I pretty much always do.  The exception this time was that I decided to forego any top coat.  So two coats of LSF-20 followed by two coats of HSF-20.

I got to William O'Brien with plenty of time, got my bib, took a rest break, got a good 20 minute warm-up in with 3 pick-ups, and got a spot on the actual starting line.

You can see me poking my head out just left of center.  My double pole off the line wasn't that fast apparently.
Race
The race plan was to take it out hard to get a good spot in line and then see where things went.  I got a decent start and slotted into 10th and was skating by the time we hit the trail center.  Compare that with last year where I didn't have a single skate until well over 1km in.

Things seemed pretty hot all they way past the tunnel.  I was hanging on to the back, but I was definitely working for it.  Just after the tunnel things started to break up a little bit with a few leaders pulling away and a couple of us coming off the back a little.  I relaxed up the first climb into Turkey Loop following someone who sounded like they were struggling.  I passed them at the top and quickly caught up to Andy Schakel.

Just about ready to start skating already.
Before we hit the top of the last downhill out of the Turkey Loop I was in front.  I got in a nice tuck and this is when I noticed things weren't going to go so well.  First I heard Andy call out on your left, and then I got a more frantic call of on your right.  They both blew me right out of the water on a downhill.  I've generally had pretty good luck with my skis usually finding them average to above average.  Today was rough.  I hate to blame the skis, but today it is hard not to.

I continued to push on skiing with Andy and one other guy through the Rolling Hills Savanna Loop, but I was playing catch-up after every downhill.  As we exited Rolling Hills and made our way to South America the extended downhill really got me unhitched.

Coming through the lap.
I kept pushing, but with the extended downhills over the next few kilometers I ended up skiing on my own.  I felt pretty good about my work rate, I just couldn't translate it into skiing with anyone.  I made it through the first lap and headed out onto the second keeping the effort level high hoping I might find someone who had gone out too hard.

What happened instead was I got passed.  Despite having considerably better technique, the guy who passed me just kept marching up the trail and I could not hold on.  It was a little extra incentive to keep my effort up despite being pretty much alone on the trail otherwise.

The only other CyclovaXC representative, Mike Phernetton coming through the lap.
In the end I finished 12th on the day in 1:22:40, over six minutes off the winner.

Analysis
I'm fairly bummed about the results.  I felt good today and kept my head in the game, but I just didn't have the right skis and wax.  I'd like to think I could have held on to the chase pack and finished somewhere in 5-10 that were all between 1:18 and 1:19.

Coming in to the finish.
As I expected the analytics aren't very favorable.  Still looks better than last year's Birkie, but a fair margin below the first two races of the year.  I'll take a clunker or two, I just hope I don't miss the Birkie ski selection/wax like today.

SISU and Seeley both had strong results.  Both were also longer.
What's Next
First is thinking about getting those B skis reground.  I felt a couple of catches while skiing today and the bases definitely show some new structure.  I had been thinking about it anyhow and now for sure.

But race wise I'm doing the Nordic Spirit in Duluth next Sunday.  I've only skied at Spirit once, and that was probably 20 years ago.  The race is also only 26k so another sub marathon effort.  Hopefully a little redemption.

Less than four weeks to go to the Birkie.
See it wasn't all bad, I was still smiling after the race.

Lake Country Pedalers 6 rides of Winter

I just received this flyer from the Lake Country Pedalers that I thought was pretty interesting. Apparently they watch a movie while riding a stationary bicycle at Anytime Fitness in Siren. The first two events have already passed, but there are four more coming up in February and March if you're interested. 

Note that this is not a Cyclova event. Enjoy and if you go let me know how it went!

2016 Tuscobia 80 Race Report


by
Dallas Wynne

I’ve come to believe that the most interesting experiences begin with a certain degree of fear.  For years I’ve admired the Arrowhead 135 competitors as some of the toughest people on earth.  To even sign up participants need to submit a resume that demonstrates the ability to survive and compete all day and night in the extreme cold.  After years adventure riding including 4 years of Gravel Conspiracy I was looking for a new challenge. The question was how to get started.   The gears started turning a year ago after reading the great race report Chris Locke wrote about the 2015 Tuscobia 75. The Tuscobia Winter Ultra offers a middle distance race that doesn't require a resume, I could use this to gain experience.

Before signing up of the Tuscobia I wanted to taste what it’s like to ride all day in frigid temperatures. Last February I asked my friend Keith to join me for a 90 mile ride through the Sand barrens on a five degree day.  We survived the day and learned how fast you can get cold if you’re not eating or working hard enough. Cold temperatures make it hard to eat frozen food, and when it’s cold you really don’t feel thirsty. The combination leads to reduced energy,slower pace, and getting cold. I’d hope to not have to learn this lesson again.  

After registering in August I began acquiring the gear that I’d carry during the race.  The required gear is similar to the Arrowhead 135 list including: a 0 degree sleeping bag, bivy sack, stove with fuel, 1 liter pot, and 3000 calories of reserve food for emergency use.  To carry all this gear I began sewing a complete set of bikepacking gear. I must admit that researching and designing my own gear is part of the fun.  The extended fall and warm snowless winter was great for riding but less than ideal for cold weather testing. In the weeks leading up to the race, temperatures continued to be way above normal, but in the final days it became clear that temps were going to fall hard.  
20160109_092807.jpgFriday before the race my friend Angus and I checked into our Rice Lake hotel and began narrowing down our final gear and clothing selections. At 5 pm we drove across town to the the Knights of Columbus Hall for the mandatory gear check and rider meeting. At the gear check the Race director Chris personally checked over every piece of equipment that each racer had and wished us all good luck.  The brief riders meeting went through the final course information and what we could expect at the aid stations.  Finally we loaded our bikes on the trailer that would take them to the 80 mile race start in Park Falls.
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Racer meeting in Rice Lake




At 6:30 the next morning we boarded a school bus packed with other eager racers for the 90 minute ride to the other end of the course in Park Falls. The bus was warm and as it began moving I pulled my hat down low and attempted to sleep while leaning against the frosty window. Occasionally I’d scrape a small hole in the frost with my glove and peek out. It was on one of those overcast winter days where the snow and sky are the same color. The forecast predicted a temperature of 8 degrees, but the temperature was holding at 15 degrees. At 9am we arrived at the St. Anthony School that served as the turnaround for the 160 mile race, and the starting point for the 80 mile race.  We found our bikes safe and secure in the school storage garage and began final preparations for the 10 am start. The heated school gym was fully stocked with food, coffee, and hot water by race volunteers and local girl scouts. It was great to have a warm place to wait until we started. I made a short ride to the trail to check the conditions and make sure all was well with my bike.

Ready, Set, GO!

Adrenaline briefly spiked as 50 bikers, 20 runners with sleds, and 2 skiers began rolling out of the parking lot. I planned to get into a good position near the front of the pack before entering the trail, but I noticed an issue with my GPS that needed attention which meant I would be starting from the back.  At the back of the pack the trail was pretty soft and chewed up. 




The firm, smooth trail that I had pre-ridden 30 minutes ago was gone.  I decided it would be worth the effort to get closer to the front where the trail conditions would would be much better.  I began picking my way through a few riders at a time until I reached the gap between the fast group and the slower group.  I recovered for a few minutes then began worked up to effort level that I could sustain for the day. The rail trail grade was consistent, but the  changing trail firmness made it difficult to settle into a pace.  I tried to focus on effort at and cadence rather than speed. Upshifting in firm sections,  and downshifting for sections of soft snow. This was very similar to the testing I had done at the Stower Seven Lakes trail near my home.  After the first three miles I began executing my food and drink plan. 
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On the bike I carried two insulated 32 ounce bottles of hot water with Camelback tabs. One had a long tube that I could drink through without taking the bottle out. My food was a random creation of chocolate covered raisins, mixed nuts, Combos, M&M’s and chocolate chips. The large bag of food was easy to reach in the custom aero bar fairing I made a week ago. At each mile I would eat 2-3 handfuls of  mix and take two or three good drinks.  My plan was to make eating a habit so I would not lose focus and run out of energy again.

By the 35 mile checkpoint in Ojibwe I felt the race was going well. I wasn’t fast, or slow, I but I was on pace to finish in less that 12 hours.  I had been riding solo for the last three and a half hours and the fantastic volunteers were great to talk with as I warmed my feet by the fire, put in new toe warmers, and enjoyed a fresh grilled cheese sandwich.  Angus arrived just as I was getting ready to leave.  I was glad to see a smile on my friend's face and hear that his day was going well.  After a 20 minute break I was on my way.


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Studying the course is always a good idea. Knowing the location of difficult sections or places to take on food is critical to staying positive during long days. On my cue sheet I had the 22 mile stretch between Radisson and Birchwood marked as key segment for the long false flat that lasts almost 10 miles, and the lack of available support.  With this in mind, I stopped in Radisson for ibuprofen to soothe my back that had been bothering me for the last 15 miles. It soon began getting dark and my light lit the narrow wheel path left by the riders I was trailing. Every so often a small group of snowmobiles would ride by. They were alway very courteous and slowed down as they passed, but they usually erased the wheel path I had been riding and softened up snow on the trail. I maintained a conservative pace up and over the one hill and actual caught two riders ahead of me in the process.

At mile 65 we reached Ed’s pit stop in Birchwood.  Ed’s was the light at the end of 3 hours of darkness.  An oasis of made to order food, coffee and whatever you could need. My stomach was letting me know that I had eaten enough sweets, so I opted for an egg salad sandwich, jerky, and coffee heavily loaded with half and half.  I changed out my second set of toe warmers and prepared to leave when I noticed that I had sweated through all the layers on my upper body. I had been stopped for 20 minutes and was now cold and wet. I had worked too hard during the last section without removing a layer. I knew this was a major mistake and that my coat would quickly freeze in in the -20 degree wind chill outside.  I left feeling safe that I had a puffy down coat, windproof pants,and extreme weather mittens in my seat bag just in case I ran into trouble.  As I left the parking lot I could feel my coat begin getting stiff and my finger tips getting cold inside my bar mitts.  I had 15 miles to the finish and after the rest my legs felt fresh. I rode as hard as I could to build heat back, and after 20 minutes I was no longer cold, but still wet. The last few miles went by quickly, and soon I made the only turn of the race onto the Wild RIvers trail with 5 miles to go! This was the only tail wind of the day and I was happy to have it.  I began pushing the pace harder again knowing I was less that 30 minutes from the end.  As I entered the Knights of Columbus hall I was greeted by the race organizer Chris  and the fantastic volunteers. I had finished in 11:04 minutes and I felt great. I found a comfortable chair and enjoyed a few squares of delicious local pizza and craft beer. Shortly after I finished eating my friend Angus arrived.  I was happy to see that the day went well for both of us.  Having enjoyed this experience I plan to be back next year and apply what I’ve learned to the full 160.



2016 Birkie Tour Event Report

That moment when you drop your GoPro and get the best picture of the day
Another great day in the books! Last spring I got the mass email from the Birkie office announcing that you could get a 10% discount by registering for 3 or more events at once. I already do the Birkie and the Birkie trail marathon, so I figured I'd sign up for the Birkie tour as well (it's only $40 for pre -registration).

This is a fun and different kind of event. It's basically everything a race is without being a race. If you're a person new to skiing then the Birkie Tour is a great event for you as it gives you a stress free trial run of all the stuff you have to face on a typical ski race morning. This is a good event for people who are veterans as well since it's a nice way to get a long ski out on the Birkie trail (although we opted to do the 25k loop this year because of the temperatures.

The whole ski racing thing is a blast, but the one thing I don't like is spending too much time away from my 5 and 3 year old daughters. So this weekend, the family and I elected to get a hotel in Hayward for a night. We pulled in to the America's Best Value Inn and proceeded to splash around in the pool until it looked like the kids might be ready to sleep (they weren't). Back in the old days, our club used to travel en masse and we'd take over hotels, and that's really the way to do it. If you can finish the race, head straight to a hot shower and a hot tub...well, it doesn't get much better (have the pizza delivered to the pool area, the hotel staff loves it when you do that).

We woke up at 7 to this:
I didn't feel much consolation by the fact that although it was -18 it "felt like" -17. When I was growing up we didn't have any of this "feels like" nonsense...if the thermometer said -86 it was -86 and we were HAPPY to walk barefoot to 3rd grade through 12 feet of snow uphill both ways!!!

The cold weather afforded us an opportunity to do a trial run for dressing in cold weather, which is important. I mean, you don't skip the Birkie just because it's -18!

When it's cold like this, my trick is to use toe warmers on my toes, but also on my thighs. You put them on your thermal tights, and then pull the ski tights over them. Amazingly, the trick works to heat up your whole body. I also always bring a couple extra adhesive warmers with me in case some other part of my body starts to freeze. It's good to know you have some sort of option for a bit of warmth.

I also experimented with putting strips of duct tape on my thighs to block out the wind. It worked great and the duct tape comes right off after the event. I'll be throwing a roll of duct tape in my gear bag from now on. Dressed and ready, we loaded up the Subaru and we were off:
Cover all your exposed skin with vaseline or dermatone on -18 days or you'll get frostbite
We got our numbers, et cetera, and hit the trail. I could tell in the first half hour or so that it would be kind of ridiculous to attempt to do the whole event. When it's that cold, you get that styrofoam squeak and you can basically walk right up hills. That's OK though...this is an untimed tour so you can do whatever you want. 

I threw my GoPro on my belt and I got a couple cool shots (I had to work them in Lightroom though):


As you can see, they had the trail in rocking great shape. The grooming was immaculate and the tracks were super fast. The only way to make any progress was to jump in the tracks and you could pick up some pretty good speed. Honestly, this event is worth doing just for the grooming, it's very rare that you get the opportunity to ski on a track this good and you can tell they come out in force to prepare the trail for the Birkie Tour.

It was the kind of day that's good for growing ice beards:
We did our loop then made it back to the finish area heated tent to enjoy hot coffee, pulled pork sandwiches, etc. Really fun! If you've got a ski club or a group of friends looking for a super challenging but low-key event, then this is the one! Throw it together with a two night stay at a local hotel and you've got a masterpiece of an epic weekend. Nothing quite gets you out of your own head like skiing. There's just something about reaching a level of physical exhaustion and starvation in -20 degree weather to make you realize the irritations you face during a regular work week are really quite minor. 

Honestly, where besides the Birkie trail do you ever want to be? I'll be doing this event again!


Mullin's Seeley Hills Classic Race Report

Pre-Race
In my SISU report, I said I was signed up for the 22km race at Seeley because I wasn't sure I could pull off a classic marathon.  One of the reasons I wasn't confident is I'm worried about missing the wax for the day and having to double pole and/or herringbone the whole thing.  As I was looking at the forecast on Tuesday it was for race time temps in the single digits above zero which means kick wax is a bit of a no-brainer.  So I decided to switch to the 42km.  And every time I checked the forecast the rest of the week it got colder and colder.  I think the temps at the start ended up being around -6F.  It warmed all the way up to -5F at the finish.


With family obligations on Friday evening I opted to glide wax my skis on Thursday evening.  Given the weather trend it wasn't likely to be wrong anyhow.  I put two layers of Fast Wax HSLF-10 in, followed by a layer of HSF-10.  I did one more layer of HSF-10, but that last one I mixed in some Toko X-Cold powder.  I've used the same formula in the past and found it good.  Today was no different and I found my skis running well all day.

For kick I ironed in and smoothed out a layer of Swix VG35.  My plan was to then try either Rode Special Green, Multigrade Blue, or Swix VR30 at the trail.  On my drive up Saturday morning I realized while driving through St. Croix Falls that I left my wax box on the wax bench.  I had the Multigrade and VR30 in the car though, just no cork.  I figured I could bum a cork from someone so it wasn't a big deal.  Ultimately I went with 3 thin layers of Multigrade Blue.  It kicked like roller skis for the first 15k or so.  By the time I was done through a combination if it wearing off, me getting tired, and the track being pulverized I wasn't kicking nearly as well.


Clothing wise I was well prepared.  Sporthill windbriefs and Smartwool socks to start.  Then my new Swix RaceX Bodywear Windpant baser layer.  That stuff rocks.  I've had "cold issues" this year but not since I got those, not even today.  On top I put on some light weight arm warmers I normally use during fall running season under my lightweight Smarwool baselayer.  CyclovaXC ski suit of course.  I kept my vest on for this race as a wind proof layer to keep my core warm.  A windproof baselayer probably would have been enough in hindsight (not that I have one).  Topped that all off with some slightly thicker than normal windproof gloves, moleskin cheek patches, gobs of Dermatone, last year's Seeley hat, and my CyclovaXC buff.  I wear the buff all the time now (all the time being defined as when I'm skiing).  I'm a huge fan of buffs now and its always good to display more team colors.  I'm not sure there are any left at the shop, if there aren't harass Ben Jonjak about getting more.

My warm-up this time was pretty short.  I'm not sure if you knew it was cold out.  Tommy and I skied north about 1km and did a couple of short hard efforts.  Before those I was COLD!  Afterwards I felt much better and was ready to line up.

Race


I lined up on the left side one row behind Tommy.  This was probably 8 or so rows back.  The start to this race seems a little sketchy going 4 or 5 wide and hitting a big turning downhill within the first 500m.  I had far less of a race strategy this week than last.  Tentatively it was to stick with Tommy until I couldn't and then see what happened.

Right before the first big downhill I saw my first crash.  Someone must have tripped or tried to change lanes or something because they face planted right in the middle of the trail at the top of the hill.  After navigating around that and down the first hill without incident I somehow ended up in front of Tommy.  By the end of the second major climb things were starting to settle down and I found myself right near the front of a little pack with a substantial gap up to the next group that quickly grew to just empty trail visible.

Right before the race Tommy was giving me some strategy tips, of which I apparently followed none of.  Instead of sitting up a little and slipping into the pack and letting them do the work since I clearly wasn't going to bridge to the next group I hovered right at the front.  The whole time I was thinking I had no business being in front of Tommy, but I couldn't let go and slide back.
Splits are Boedecker, Fire Tower, Boedecker, OO, and Gravel Pit
As we progressed north of Boedecker things started to thin out a little and eventually I think shortly before Firetower Tommy went to the front and the pace lifted.  There were a couple of guys coming back to us and we were leaving folks behind.  After the turn around at Fire Tower I managed to stick on Tommy's tails for a couple of k before we started climbing again and he slowly pulled away.

At this point my skis were still running fast, but my kick didn't seem as solid as earlier.  I was certainly feeling the effects of the effort so far and I was less than halfway done.  I was mildly concerned that I had over cooked it already only a third of the way into the race.

The rest of the way to OO, then on to Gravel Pit was a bit of a blur.  I was skiing near a couple of other guys.  I'd be hard pressed to tell you who they were other than the guy in the lumber jack suit (Drew Holbrook apparently) who eventually really kicked it in and passed Tommy and the guy in the cowboy suit.  In general I think I lost a place or two net during that stretch.

A huge thank you to Kelly Randolph of Once In A Blue Moon Studio for being out and taking fabulous pictures as always.
Once I hit the turn around at Gravel Pit I tried to stick to cowboy suit guy.  I was keeping up with him on the downhills and he was pulling away slowly on the uphills.  I eventually lost him though when I tried to get a drink from my bottle on the last big downhill at about 30k.  Shortly after that I got caught by two more guys.

I tried to stick to those guys and was pushing pretty hard.  They gapped me just a little bit up Picnic Table hill and that was enough.  Despite pushing hard all the way to the finish I couldn't quite close the gap down again.  The good news is that despite my earlier concerns about being over cooked early I never bonked in this race.  I was able to push hard to the finish and was only suffering from some pretty tired quads and hip flexors.


Analysis

My subjective analysis was a little mixed.  While I was happy I was able to push the pace early and not bonk late, I wouldn't say that I felt strong the whole time.  Despite knowing that the long race field is full of studs I was sort of disappointed to finish 41st.  A gap of only 2:22 to Tommy wasn't too bad again. I could have raced a little smarter, but thankfully didn't suffer big consequences for my error in judgement.

Crunching the numbers though it was another solid race.  The best race by the numbers in fact.  If I limit my correlation algorithm to only use people who were 50% or less back in each race it cuts down a little on the variation you get further from the pointy end.  The people at the pointy end are usually pretty consistent.

Still a bit of scatter comparing classic to skate.  I highlighted myself as one of the highest above the line indicating Seeley was the better race.
If you take the last two years of races and run the correlation on them to last year's Birkie, things are definitely trending in the right direction.  Last years Pepsi was an improvement, but the first two races this year are even better.


Predictions and correlations aren't the same thing as actually racing, but this is definitely positive reinforcement that I'm doing the right kinds of things.

What's Next
Getting over sore classic muscles is step one.  I'm pretty wrecked one day after the race.  Hip flexors and back are both well worked over.  Thankfully my toes which hurt pretty bad last night are mostly good today.

Theoretically this coming weekend is the Marine O'Brien race.  I'm not signed up yet given the questionable conditions.  Snow doesn't seem likely this week either.  I'll see what the organizers have to say and go from there.  Registration is closed for the Three Rivers Rennet and the Noquemanon is a long haul.  I'm hoping O'Brien is a go.

!Fat Wednesdays! - !Group Fat Bike Rides Every Wednesday at 6 From Woolly Trailhead!

Join the "night shift" on your fat bike at the Woolly Trails!
Mother Nature recently gave us a gift - she blanketed the St. Croix Valley in 6+ inches of snow, and Winter has finally set in.  The Woolly Bike Club was ready for the snow, and Woolly's Fat Bike Grooming Machine (known as "Bjorn 2.0") has been hard at work.  The result is some of the best Groomed Singletrack you'll find anywhere!  Don't take my word for it, check out what 45NRTH has to say about their riding on the Woolly trails - or as seen by CBS news / WCCO TV not too long ago.

Do I have your attention now?  Great!  While any time is a great time to ride Woolly, there will be frequent group rides on the Woolly Fat Bike trails all Winter.  Members of the Woolly Bike Club, Cyclova XC staff, and other community members will be out Fat Biking the Woolly trails every Wednesday night at 6PM.  We frequently get dinner and enjoy a beverage afterward as well.  Fat bikers of all levels are welcome - we usually do either 1 or 2 laps of our 12 mile network of Groomed Singletrack trails. 

Summary:
What:  Group Night Time Fat Bike Rides on the Woolly Bike Club groomed singletrack
When:  Every Wednesday night, rolling at 6PM sharp
Where:  Meet at the Woolly Trail Head, at the bottom of Big Oak.  HERE is a link to the location.  
Equipment:  Fat Bikes only (must have tires 3.7" or wider, with 10psi or less of pressure), Must have a good bright light as it will be dark, Dress for the weather, Bring a good attitude .

Note that World Class mountain bike trails & groomed Fat Bike Trails don't happen on their own.  The Woolly Bike Club's volunteers have been hard at work for 8 years building the trails, partnering with the local municipalities & land owners, and making things happen.  Doing all of this costs money.  Support Woolly by joining IMBA and choose the Woolly Bike Club (WBC) as your chapter of choice - or by making a donation to Woolly.

Questions on the rides or the gear?  Stop on by or reach out to the Fat Bike experts at Cyclova XC right here in St. Croix Falls.  We have more fat biking expertise, passion, and equipment in stock than almost anyone!

The map of the amazing Woolly Fat Bike Trail network.  Note the Trailhead location at the west end of "Big Oak", noted by the red "T" symbol.
Groomed Woolly singletrack - a fat biker's dream...  Photo Credit:  45NRTH





Nordic Skiing and Biathlon Clinic at Snap Fitness, Tonight at 6 PM!


Mullin's SISU Ski Fest Race Report



Executive Summary

A pretty good start to the marathon race season complete with good results, good skiing, and good friends.

Race Prep

As I mentioned in my SISU prep post I've been training hard.  This week continued that trend even with the pending race.  Tuesday was my first classic workout with a set of VO2max intervals at Elm Creek.  Thursday was the final tune-up with a pair of marathon pace intervals on natural snow at Como.

Friday was final waxing.  Forecast was for 32 degrees overnight with snow and falling temperatures to around 20 at race time.  I picked my soft flex Fishers and waxed them up with with two coats of Fast Wax HSLF-10, two coats of HSF-20, topped with Holmenkol Speedblock Mid.  Everyone I talked to said they couldn't decide if their skis were good or awful.  I'd have to say the same.  The conditions were very mixed.  I never felt like I was getting blown away by anyone else's skis so I'm going to say they were good enough.

Too much text... a picture of Cory Kending and Ben Jonjak at the start of wave 2 to break things up.
The course was good.  Just a few icy spots and a little uneven and lumpy into town.  Some sections were firm, some kind of soft.  A few of the downhills were sketchy.  Did I mention it snowed the whole time?  Nothing heavy, but natural snowflakes falling from the sky is pretty cool.

I've been pretty bad warming up before ski marathons.  As in non-existent.  Maybe running to make it to the start on time.  This time I got out for a solid 20+ minutes of skiing.  Focused on feeling relaxed and balanced on my skis.  I did three short pick-ups of about a minute each to wake things up in the latter half of the warm-up.  Then it was shucking warm-ups and lining up for wave 1 shortly after the elite wave started.

Dennis Kotcon racing to 7th overall in the 42k Classic
Lastly race strategy.  If you've been following my race novels, you know I spent most of the fall practicing pacing my running races by HR.  Well, I threw that out the window.  I've been training hard and was told to not be afraid to go out hard and then have to recover.  It's never really worked before, but then again I haven't been prepping as hard either.  So I was going to go out with the leaders of my wave and RACE.  I'd rather try something and have it fail spectacularly here than at the Birkie.  I had my watch showing time, HR, and distance.  I was going to look occasionally, but that was about it.

Race

About time right?  Anyhow, wave 1 as I said.  Lots of research, blah, blah, blah, I knew there were people who had better Birkies than I did last year in the wave with me, but no elite wave Birkie skiers.  So, line up at the front and try to stick with the leaders.


Off the gun it was clean and I slotted in to second position.  I was feeling good and everything seemed nice and relaxed for the first 2k or so.  I took a quick peek at my watch and saw a HR of 170+ and realized race adrenaline was making a hard effort seem easy.  But that was just a check, I was going to keep racing.

I stayed in second through about 3.5k where there was the one corner on the course that was a little confusing.  The lead pack got a little shuffled as we took the corner really wide before getting onto River Trail to descend.  A quick check showed the lead pack was still fairly big.  By the time we were climbing Peltonen Passout the first time we were in the 6-10 ballpark.

Not looking too bad at 6.5k after climbing to the to of Peltonen Passout the first time.
After the harrowing descent, off Peltonen as we hit Popple Flats, Mark Rathbun went to the front and put in a pretty solid effort.  I was probably about 6th in line at that point and there was a small gap yo-yoing between 5th and 4th.  I was thinking the effort was kind of high and I was worried about staying on, thinking maybe my time with the lead pack was already at an end.

We managed to stay on and by the time we reached Sulo's Loop our pack was down to 6.  I was tucked safely into the middle and was really appreciating it as we headed into a bit of a headwind.  As we headed out into Hautanen Highlands and down to Coyote Canyon and back up to Hautanen again we were moving along pretty well as a group.  It wasn't seamless pace line rotating.  Some folks went to the front and things slowed down, sometimes we came through an aid station and things got shuffled.  Unintentionally I ended up not taking a pull for probably 10k.

About 15k in Craig Rudd was worried the pace was falling off again.  We had a couple of guys chasing back onto the pack.  He asked firmly to go to the front and the pace definitely lifted.  He opened a bit of a gap on 2nd while I was in 3rd.  While I couldn't quite make it around the guy in second, he thankfully lifted his pace enough to catch back on.

Breaking up the text again with a picture of Tommy Krenz getting it done.
After a good long pull of probably almost 3k, Craig pulled over.  So did second so I took up pace making duties through Bard's Bump and up River Trail to the next aid station at the Warm-up shack.  From there to River Trail again almost another 2k in we were content to let the slowest leader take over.  I'm not sure why he ended up at the front so frequently, but I was content to have the effort drop a little on the climbing.

Craig went to the front again going into Pit Point Loop the second time.  He pulled until the bottom of Peltonen and when he pulled over, the same guy in second did again.  I hadn't wanted to pull up Peltonen and said I wasn't so sure about it.  Craig said he liked when I pulled because I upped the pace.  That certainly wasn't intentional.  Anyhow we climbed, me at the head of the train.  A shuffle through the aid station again where I ditched my bottle for a new one and we were headed downhill again.

Leading the pack into the Hilltop House Aid Station for the second time.
Somewhere on the climb or the descent, the pack of 6 we had been skiing with since the start of the race had dwindled to 4.  Me, Craig, Walter Meanwell, and Scott Golomski.  We also picked up an elite wave skier who found a second wind.

Memory Lane and Jackpine were fun as I realized that this race was working out pretty well.  I was still with the lead few guys from the wave and we were almost 30k into the race.  I wasn't struggling to keep up though it certainly wasn't effortless.  Going forward it was going to be all new trail for me.  I knew from looking at the elevation profile there was still some climbing in a couple of different styles.  A really long grinder of a climb, then some shorter stuff, and then one last big one before going into town.  Duane told me to save something for the end because I was going to need it.  He told me that you'd climb the last hill, see the big indian and it would be all downhill from there.

All these words... how about a picture of Big Steve Edling hamming for the camera as usual.
Well, things were going OK, I continued to take my turn on the front.  Then about half way up the grinding climb as we crossed Range Road our pack finally disintegrated for good.  Craig and Scott got a little gap over the uneven road crossing and I could not quite close the gap down.  What was a 5 meter gap slowly grew to 10, then 20, and eventually I was no longer chasing but starting to worry about who might come by.

Initially I thought that I hadn't really bonked, but looking at the HR data it was falling and the pace was climbing so it would definitely seem like a bonk.  Strava has a pretty cool Flybys feature where you can play back your events along with others who were in or around you at the time.  Recently they've added a time ahead/behind feature.  The image below shows me and Scott skiing within 15 seconds of each other for the majority of the race until about 21 miles (33.5k) where it suddenly started growing until he finally beat me by almost a minute and a half.


Back to my race.  The race got kind of lonely at that point.  There were a few classic skiers to pass and I was in the vicinity of the Elite waver who had hung around for the last 15 k or so.  Eventually I left him behind and descended into the city landfill or whatever that is.  I could see the steep climb out of it and knew I had reached that last climb that Duane had warned me about.  I gutted it out and turned the corner, and was rewarded with the rest of the climb.  Ugh.  That last climb was brutal but I made it and finally found the indian statue Duane promised me was the mark of the "its all downhill from here" point.  A little lumpy bumpy trip down the hill and into town and I was done.


Analysis

So how did I do?  Subjectively, that was probably the most fun racing I've had since I started skiing again.  The wave start allowed me to have the confidence to go out with the lead pack and my training has provided me with the fitness to be one of the final people to be dropped.  Working with the pack and thinking about my own tactics was cool.  Normally I've been spit out the back early and time trial the rest of the race.

It felt good to push harder than I have before.  The ability to go hot and then recover all while maintaining efficient technique was a nice change.  I had a little stomach discomfort most of the race and I probably could have eaten more which may have delayed the bonk.  I didn't have a solid fueling strategy and post race I calculate I only consumed about 350 calories (1.25 bottles of Tailwind + most of a GU).  A 50% increase would have likely been better assuming it was digesting.

Ben Hugh Jonjackman
Slightly less subjective, I know I beat a number of folks that qualified for the Elite wave of the Birkie this year.  I was also less than 3 minutes off of Tommy Krenz.  Over 42k that isn't too shabby.

Objectively, my spreadsheet tells me it was a solid improvement.  As a reminder I'm using what I believe the City of Lakes does (or did at one time) in taking the results from two races and correlating times based on people who did both races.  This allows you to map one race time to another.  Sort of.  There are lots of caveats and exceptions so it isn't perfect, but taken with the appropriately sized grain of salt it can identify trends.


That shows that surprisingly this wasn't my best race ever.  That is what I would have told you before I ran the numbers.  A number of the short early season races last year were theoretically better and Pepsi Challenge was about the same.  The number I really focus on though is the mapping of this result to the Birkie.  In this case my correlated time is 2:53:51.  That would have been 236 male last year.  So close to Elite wave.

Another way I looked at the results for this race was to map out the finisher place of both races.  It tends to make a decent line as SISU was pretty stacked with a solid field.  In the plot below I'm the red dot well above the line which indicates the SISU race was much better.  I highlighted all of the results of people I finished ahead of that qualified for the Elite wave this year.  All pretty positive and pointing in the right direction.


So I'm still very happy with the results.  I'm not yet satisfied where I'm at though and am really excited to keep on the same track I've been on so far this season with hard workouts and getting the engine in even better shape in just 40 more days.

Steve McCormick enjoyed giving me crap all weekend about my spreadsheets so he gets to go after all the data!
What's Next

This weekend is Seeley Hills Classic.  I'm not quite yet confident enough to try to pull of a classic marathon so I'm signed up for the 22k instead.  I raced it last year and had fun hanging with the main pack for about the first 6k.  This year I'm hoping to go further with the contenders.

Thank you to Starr for all of the awesome photos of the race.