Sunday, February 28, 2010

THE BIRKIE

Let’s get the important stuff out of the way first. Happy 9th birthday to my awesome daughter, Kinsey.



If you’ve been following along, you can probably tell that it was an awesome weekend for the Birkie. The weather and course were both awesome, which as you probably can figure out, makes for some fast times. Of course, that makes the whole process of comparing results from year to year very difficult.

A couple of weeks ago I thought I was in 3:08ish. Last week I thought I had a shot at sub-3. Halfway through the race, I thought I was on-pace for a 2:58. With 10K to go, I knew that if I averaged 4:00 per kilometer – which is a very conservative calculation because I was skiing closer to 3:30 pace – I’d still ski 2:58. I probably should have factored in 3:30 pace over the last 10K instead of 4:00 pace because when I crossed the line in sub-2:53 instead of 2:58, I was very surprised. That’s a 20-minute improvement over last year.

Again, that sounds great, but then I started to figure out that everyone was skiing much faster than last year. So I thought I’d turn to overall placing to get a better feel. Last year I finished 929 out of 3,327 (28%) and this year I was 924 out of 3,646 (25%). Based on those percentages, I beat about 100 more people than last year.

I can’t say enough great things about this event. All the things I said after last year’s race still hold true. If you’re interested in doing this event, but are leery because you don’t know how to ski, let me say, don’t let that stop you. My friend Scott has gone from zero to finishing the Birkie in about 15 months. So it can be done in a relatively short amount of time.

More importantly than the race itself is the fact that I had a great time all weekend long; pre-race spaghetti dinner and waxing, post-race coffee, dinner, rehashing everyone's race report and finally hanging out at the Sawmill Saloon in Seely with friends, beer, and music. I was fortunate enough to stay with some really cool people. And I got to catch up with my college roommate who I have seen for probably 10 years.

Good times!!!

Quote of the day;

“You have to fight. Reach the finishing line or die.” – Gabriel Torenfaelt, the oldest finisher at age 87 of the 90K Vasaloppet in Mora, Sweden

BIRKIE PHOTOS & VIDEOS

Telemark Lodge in Cable, WI. Home of the start of the American Birkebeiner.

Skis.
More skis!

Cool sculpture of the Birkebeiners.


Another cool sculpture.

Huge World Loppet ice sculpture.


video

Here's a short video of the start of the men's elite wave. Check out the beautiful blue skies.

video

And, finally, here's a short clip of what the finish of the race looks like in downtown Hayward, WI. Keep in mind Hayward has a population of just over 2,000 people.

Monday, February 22, 2010

BIRKIE WEEK

It’s been a week, but I still don’t have much to say. So, I’ll direct you to my latest interview instead. Antonio is a man of very few words.

Also, I came across this humorous look at what it’s like if you want to start skiing. Scroll down to the bottom to find part 1 and work your way up from there.

It’s Birkie week!!! 5 days till the race. There aren’t any warm-ups in the forecast, so I think conditions will be phenomenal. I think I might have a shot at sub-3 hours. That equals 3:36 per kilometer. I averaged 3:45 on the trails 2 weeks ago on basic wax while starting near the middle of a mass start. We’ll see…can’t wait!

Quote of the day;

“You are never in the clear until you cross the finish line. Blowing up is not out of the question until then.” – Antonio Vega

Monday, February 15, 2010

MORE HEAD-CAM-VIDEOS

As promised, here are a couple of more videos from Scott Brown. This first one gives you a great sense of how awesome the Birkie trails are.

Hayward Lions 42k Pre-Birkie 2010 from Scott Brown on Vimeo.

Think all skis and waxes are equal? This video disproves that. Look at how Scott blows by a bunch of guys like they're standing still.

Fast Skis from Scott Brown on Vimeo.

BLOW YOUR GUTS OUT

What an awesome weekend! On Saturday, I met Scott at 6 AM and we drove to Hayward, which is just under 3 hours away. We skied the 42K Pre-Birkie and couldn’t have asked for a better day. It was a little crisp at the start with temps in the single digits, but it was sunny and the trail was in awesome shape. As Scott said on the way home, there may be better trails in the U.S., but we don’t know where they are.

I wasn’t really treating this as a race, but more of a long training ski. I had cheap wax on my skis and was near the back of the pack during the mass start. I ended up skiing a couple seconds per kilometer faster than I skied at last weekend’s race. I ended up skiing 2:37:35 or 3:45/K.

Although I appeared to have skied better, the results show I still have a bunch of work to do. While I don’t expect to win my age group, I don't think I should be in the 79th percentile. Yeah, I was 27th out of 34th. I mean, based on my running results and aerobic fitness alone, I figure I’d be better off than that.

It reaffirms that I need to spend the two weeks leading up to the Birkie focusing on my technique. There are no gains to be made from a physical fitness standpoint, but I think 2 weeks is enough time to make gains on my technique. Maybe it was from watching the U.S. go 2-4-6 in the Nordic Combined yesterday, but today’s ski seemed better. I’m trying to spend time thinking about; 1) keeping my skis pointed forward as much as possible, 2) getting my feet close together, 3) slowing everything down and being more forceful, which also leads to focusing on the timing of my movements.

We’ll see where that gets me. Not sure if I have a sub-3 in me or not. If I had to guess, as of yesterday, I’d say I’m a 3:08 skier.

One thing I don’t understand, if I suck so bad, how can I be in wave 2 (out of 10) at the Birkie? Maybe it has to do with the number of people skiing the Korte (half the distance), skiing classical, and/or first timers who go into wave 10.

I should have some more helmet-cam links tomorrow. For some reason, I can’t share them from work.

I love today’s QOD, especially in today’s world of “everyone’s a winner”. It comes from a local high school girl after she held off a close friend to win the state Nordic skiing title.

Quote of the day;

“Crossing the line holding hands would have been kind of cool. But a race is a race. You don’t race so you can skip across the finish line. You race so that you can blow your guts out.” – Jessie Diggins

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

FRAME OF REFERENCE

I’ll keep this short and sweet today. I’m guessing the vast majority of my readers are runners. I’m not sure what effect my writing about skiing has on you. It probably causes a lot of you to tune-out. If you’ve never skied before, you probably don’t want to read about it. Heck, maybe you live in a state that doesn’t have snow. Not sure why you would want to do that, but that’s a different issue. Anyway, you probably don’t have any frame of reference regarding the sport. Or maybe you are curious about the sport.

Whatever the case may be, here’s a great video from the City of Lakes Loppet. Scott B. wore a camera on his head during the race and then edited down the video to less than 5 minutes and included some music. It’s the best video I’ve seen for getting a sense of the sport. Thanks to Scott L. for sending it to me.

City of Lakes Loppet 35k Freestyle from Scott Brown on Vimeo.

Quote of the day;

“I love the feeling of putting it all on the line. It’s something unequaled in anything else I have experienced. I seem to be able to redline it at will and just hang in there.” – Jared Mondry

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

"OLD" FARTS

Okay, lots of good stuff today, let’s see if I can tie it together with a bow.

First off, you’ve probably heard me mention Jared’s name here before, either regarding the interview I conducted with him, quotes of his that I used for the QOD, mention of his 2009 season in the Yearbook or my recap article. Or maybe I’ve let it slip that all the men in the Saturday morning group that I run with have a man-crush on him - or is it a “bromance”? In any case, Running Times must be taking notice of my blog, or at least of Jared’s performances, because they ran this full page article in their March edition.

Last year Jared dominated the 65-69 age-group from 5K to the Marathon. I think the only distance he didn’t race at was the Mile. Not that Jared’s scared of anything, or anyone, but I don’t blame him for avoiding the Mile because he would have had to face my latest interviewee; Rick Kleyman. As a 69-year-old last year, Rick busted out 6:01 and 6:05 miles on the roads. Luckily for Jared, Rick is now 70.

Finally, back in high school, Kurt was coached by Rick. Well, the other day Kurt posted a must-see video that highlights Coach Joe Newton and his York, IL high school x-c team. At the time of filming, his team was going for their 25th state title in like 45 years. More impressive than that was the way Coach Newton treated each of his kids and tried to instill life’s lessons through running. I don’t often say thing are “must-see” but this is one of them. Keep in mind this is a 90-minute movie, not a two-minute YouTube clip. Still, I believe it's worth a look.

Track and Field Videos on Flotrack

Quote of the day;

“I think that the key to what success I have had in sports has been my tolerance for pain and discomfort.” – Jared Mondry

Monday, February 08, 2010

CITY OF LAKES LOPPET

It’s always kind of fun to go back and read the race reports from a year ago, especially if you’ve just completed that same race. Here’s last year’s City of Lakes Loppet race report.

It was another fabulous weekend for skiing in the area. Saturday I brought Kinsey with me to the packet pickup so that she could ski around a little and then compete in her second Minne-Loppet. Here she is at the start. Thanks to Nick for emailing me the photo!



Last year I started in wave 4 and remember being pretty frustrated on a lot of the hills because there was no way to get around other skiers. This year I moved up to wave 3 and I felt like it was the perfect place for me. For the most part, the people around me were going the same speed, so there wasn’t a lot of jostling for position. It made for a much more enjoyable race.

I felt like I was skiing a lot better than last year. I was able to V2 in a lot more places. However, I ended up skiing 2:02:35 or about 40 seconds slower than last year. I know the course was a little different and that you can’t really compare times from year to year due to the changing snow conditions. But still, I thought I’d see some improvement just from being more fit overall. I think one thing that has hurt me is that even though I’ve skied on hilly courses this year, I have skied for more than 2:20. Towards the end of the race, my shoulders were killing me.

But I think I should be okay. We have an extra week before the Birkie this year. I’m squeezing in another (42K Pre-Birkie) race this Saturday. And last year I only skied 20K during the 2 weeks leading up to the Birkie because of a warm-up that melted our snow. With all the snow on the ground here (and more falling as I write this), I don’t think that will be an issue this year.

I’m thinking there definitely has to be some key to the technique that I have to find help to open. As I looked at the results, it turns out the group of women I was skiing with all seemed to be in the 50-54 age group – six from that age group beat me. 40 men aged 50-54 and 21 men aged 55-59 beat me. I was in the bottom half of men 40-44 (52%) and barely in the top half (47%) of all men. Then, as I got more and more depressed analyzing the results, there it was; William S. 2:06.

William is one of my arch rivals in the running world. He’s one of these guys that I’ve never met and don’t have a clue what he looks like. I only “know” him from running race results. He’s in my age group and he always seems to be just in front of me. As I look for some silver linings from this race, beating him is one of them. Now I just have to transfer that to the roads.

After the race I met my family at a local winter festival that had tubing, x-c skiing, bon fire, horse-drawn carriage rides, etc. I was surprised when my 6-year-old Katie said she wanted to try x-c skiing. She’s usually very reserved when it comes to trying new things. But she did it and I’m proud of her and she gets today’s QOD.

Quote of the day;

“I love skiing.” – Katie Austin

Friday, February 05, 2010

SWEET TRAILS

I’m hoping to get in a longer ski today, but right now I’m stuck at work waiting for a couple of people that are helping me on a project.

Anyway, I think we have some awesome ski trails around here – especially for a metro area. However, none of them compare to these sweet trails.



I stole these photos from Garrott Kuzzy’s blog. Garrott’s from Minneapolis and was just named to the 2010 Olympic team - for nordic skiing (of course).

I’ve mentioned that being a blogger tends to generate emails in my in box from people wanting me to promote this or try that. Lots of times I just ignore them, sometimes I check things out without taking further actions, and sometimes I do in fact share them here. Well, since I love the Olympics – summer and winter – I thought I’d share an email I got from Liza the other day;

On February 12, the world will gather to watch top athletes from around the globe compete in the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. Athletes from Team USA, who have been training their entire lives will take the stage to represent our country. I'm writing with the hope that you could share the news about Team USA with the readers of Simon Says Run.

Anyone who registers on Teamusa.org will have access to the latest info and will receive exclusive updates throughout the games. I've put all that information including some very cool Team USA widgets and banners into this social media news release HERE.
I haven’t exactly figured out the widgets and banners thing and how to incorporate them into my blog, but I plan on doing it before the Games kickoff. I think (or at least, I hope) it’ll be a great way to track athletes that aren't getting all the air time on TV (cough, figure skaters, cough) – like Garrott Kuzzy and all the other nordic skiers – even the ones they give riffles to. If you like the Winter Olympics, be sure to check out the site above and spread the word using your blog, facebook page, twitter account, or whatever other social media is out there that I can’t keep track of.

Finally, thanks to Nick for figuring out why my Google Analytics is no longer working. It appears when I updated my templates, I lost the imbedded code.

Quote of the day;

“Some days are simply dialed. Today has been one of those days.” - Garrott Kuzzy

Thursday, February 04, 2010

HALF HOPING

Yeah, you got me. In yesterday’s post, I’m in the front row, all the way to the left.

I got a nice surprise in the mail the other day, a $15 gift certificate to the second best running store around for placing 3rd in age-group at the Winter Carnival Half. I continue to “rake it in” as a Master.

This morning I was half hoping it’d be “too cold” to go skiing again. When my alarm went off, I made the following deal; if it was in the single digits, I’d bag my morning ski and just run on the treadmill in the evening. Well, it was 20 degrees, so I got dressed and headed out.

I’m glad I did too, because I rewarded with probably the best combination of trails and temps all year. During my 75 minute ski I had two thoughts – well, two thought worth sharing. First, if I didn’t have to go to work, I could’ve skied all morning. Second, the 20s (20-29 degrees) may be the perfect temperature range – at least for skiing. Anything less and it’s getting on the cold side. Anything more and it’s getting too hot. In any case, summer is now official my least favorite season – winter, fall and spring all top it.

In addition to 2 thoughts, I have 2 questions. First, do any other bloggers use Google Analytics to track their web traffic? If so, why did it stop working at the start of 2010? Second, Pace Groups = Fair or Cheating?

Finally, here are some things that shouldn’t be allowed at work; 1) bumping into someone in the hallway, or worse, the bathroom, and saying “Did you get that email I sent you?” 2) Mirowaving your lunch for anything longer than 3 minutes – enough with these frozen meals that take 10 minutes to heat up. 3) People printing out stories from the Internet to read in the bathroom stall and then leaving them on the floor.

Quote of the day;

“Become proficient at listening to your body and you will eventually hear from your totality – the complex, unique person you are.” – Dr. George Sheehan

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

WHERE'S WALDO

I know yesterday’s post has everyone shopping for x-c skis. However, let me point out that it’s not all rosy. For as awesome as yesterday’s ski was, this morning’s sucked. The temps dropped over night to about 0 degrees and my skis have zero glide this morning. I made it about 10 minutes before calling it a day. Workout-wise it’s not a big deal because I have a run planned for tonight. It just sucks to wake up at 5:00 only to not workout. Sleeping for an extra hour would have been more beneficial to my training that that “workout”.

I should mention that things came together yesterday after work. On the drive home I was contemplating whether or not I’d get a run in. Those things are easy to plan when I’m wide awake, but then by 8 PM, I’m half asleep and I talk myself out of it. Well yesterday I got out of work on-time, there wasn’t any traffic, and the kids were busy playing with friends. So I was able to jump on the treadmill for an easy 5 miles before dinner. Sweet!

Finally, here’s a photo I found on Facebook. Can anyone find me?

Quote of the day;

“There’s a great advantage in training under unfavorable conditions.” – Emil Zatopek

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

MBTI = ISTJ

I’ll explain the title of this post in a minute, but first…

If nothing else, being a skier means I don’t get pissed off sitting in traffic for 90 minutes because we received 3” of new snow. Instead, I just sit there and think about how awesome the following morning’s ski is going to be. At least that’s what I did yesterday. And that anticipation allowed me to roll out of bed at 4:50 without a single thought of wanting to sleep in. I made it to Hyland where I skied for 1:22. As soon as I got in my car, I started hearing all these nasty traffic reports. That’s another great thing about getting up early to exercise – I miss the whole morning commute.

Today’s conditions reminded me of my "You Choose" post from last winter. The 2 photos in that post say it all.

MBTI = Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator
ISTJ = Introversion – Sensing – Thinking - Judging

Last week our department had an off-site meeting to discuss the results of the Meyers-Briggs personality assessment that we took. In addition to just explaining our 4-letter results, they gave us a bunch of bullet points that may explain our preferences. I thought it’d be interesting to share some of the ones that hit the closest to home for me;

You do not enter into activities impulsively, but once committed, you are hard to distract or discourage.


You assemble facts to support your evaluations and communicate the facts in an objective way.


You seek solutions to current problems from your past experiences and that of others.


You consider social obligations unimportant and leave them to others, you find telephone calls to be unwelcome interruptions, and you prefer to be alone when you do have to make phone calls, especially social calls.


You keep your feelings and interests to yourself and you are seen by others as hard to get to know because you process so much inside.


You would rather relate to a few significant others than be in a large group and you draw sharp distinctions between friends and acquaintances, and you need to trust people before sharing much about yourself.


You are grounded in reality and trust the facts, and you interpret things literally.


You are impatient listening to ideas if a practical use in not the end result.


You believe that logical analysis is best for decision making, you use hard data to make your decisions, and you focus on cause and effect.


You like to use questions to clarify ideas and zero in on discrepancies.


You are argumentative and skeptical.


You may enjoy the planning more than the doing.


You like established methods and procedures.


You develop detailed plans for the task at hand.


I could go on and on, but I think that’s already more than you wanted, or needed, to know.

Quote of the day;

“When you get down to it, it’s the people you get to meet. If I want to tell you the most about a person in the fewest words, I simply say, ‘He’s a runner.’” – Paul Fetscher

Monday, February 01, 2010

IT LIVES

First off, it may have been nearly 6 months between interview, but it lives.

I had an okay week last week. I managed 37 miles running and 43K skiing. While the entire week was just okay, I had a packed “weekend”. I took Friday afternoon off and skied for 2:15 at Murphy-Hanrehan – aka the toughest ski trails around. Saturday I ran for 1:52, and then Sunday I skied for 1:50. All told, I closed out January with 162 miles and 165K.

I’m kind of struggling to run much more than 2 hours. Saturday I was hoping to go longer, but as I got back to my car, I had no desire to add on. February kicks off ski-race month with races on the 7th, 13th and 27th. Hopefully I can manage to squeeze in a couple of 2 hour runs.

Lots of things confuse me, including endurance nutrition. There are so many products on the market – all with fancy marketing literature and websites – that it’s hard to make heads or tails out of it all. Awhile ago, Kurt gave me a sample of VESPA to try.

I’m not talking about the scooter.

Rather I'm referring to an amino acid supplement.

It doesn’t boost performance. It’s not a fuel, an electrolyte replacement, or energy supplement. VESPA works by enabling the muscles to get their energy from a readily available and plentiful source in our bodies…fat.

Let me just start by saying I’m always skeptical going into anything like this. I believe in the mantra “If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is.”

Here is what some of their literature says;

The benefits include; 1) increased endurance/stamina derived from tapping into a plentiful energy source for aerobic muscle metabolism, 2) stabilized blood sugars to help you beat the bonk, 3) reduced lactates for improved recovery, 4) naturally-occurring ingredients.

Basically, you drink a packet 45 minutes before working out (used when going 2+ hours) and then you don’t eat or drink any carbs/sugars prior to beginning your workout. Keep hydrated. During longer durations workouts you may need some calories and electrolytes.

They claim what you “feel” is what you don’t “feel”. There’s no sugar rush or caffeine high, and you won’t get the lows either. You’ll just feel an even and sustainable energy. You may simple “feel” that you had a “good” day.

VESPA “works” in subtle yet significant ways. Note how you feel throughout your workout, immediately after, and in the recovery phase. Again, what you will notice is what you don’t notice (the ups and downs, the crashing, being completely wiped out after a workout and the relative level of soreness and recovery time.

Well, with all that said, I decided to put it to the test prior to Friday’s ski. I can honestly say, I didn’t feel a thing – just like they claimed. However, I was hoping to ski a little longer than I did, but I got so chilled, I couldn’t continue on. I have no idea if that was because of tapping into my fat supplies or it being 10 degrees out. While I was able to bounce back with nearly a 2 hour run the next day, the last mile or so was a struggle, and I had no desire to go further. And I did feel pretty wiped out all weekend. But it could be from cramming in nearly 6 hours of training in 3 days.

So basically my one-dose experiment is inconclusive. With some longer ski races and training sessions coming up, I’ll probably include a few more uses.

I would recommend that everyone experiment with different things to find out what works for them. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t ever feel like I get the high-highs or low-lows that seem common in others. Maybe that’s why it’s hard for me to notice what’s working and what’s not. That and the fact there are lots of other variables that need to be considered.

More to come.

Quote of the day;
“I wish I would have known that I would still be running 29 years later and that so many wonderful friendships would be formed by being a runner. My best friends are runners. It turned out that running is more than a sport. It is a way of life. I can’t imagine my life without it.” - Kathy Peterson