Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Whatever happened to...

Has anybody heard from Ridinfences lately? I had her blog on my sidebar as she was doing Wildflower, but it seems her blog has been deactivated... I miss her!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Sunday, February 25, 2007

American Birkebeiner Race Report

What a trip. Everything about it was extreme. I have a deep, deep respect for Birkie skiers. Just let me put that out there first.

Laura's post is here... but she's going to be adding to it.

First, the entire race was almost canceled due to lack of snow. We woke up race day anticipating 14-18 inches of Last-Minute-Blizzard and saw 1/8" dusting. So there was really no snow as far we could tell. For a ski race... but we head off to the start anyway.

This was the walk down to the start. Note the conditions.

The start line. Truckloads full of snow had been brought in from Whoknowswhere. We guessed from other businesses' parking lots because it was all sandy and full of gravel. Imagine putting 6 foot long skis on your feet and hiking around the beach. The first 1 or 2 miles were this way.

The race was shortened from 31.7 miles to 15.6 miles. It was supposed to be only 23k, but I am here to tell you we skiied past the 23k marker, then the 24k, before finally we saw signs for 1000 meters, then 500 meters left... Omigosh. It was the longest 5k at the end. Spectators kept saying, "one more k! you can do it!" for the last 5k. If you can imagine being told this after 15.6 miles of constant elevation change. I was ready to start crying. Laura and I hardly spoke the whole race. Periodically we would glance at each other and try to force a smile and word or two of encouragment, but that was all we could. Many of you out in blogland actually know both of us and this is a pretty revealing detail in itself...

So the start is like skiing in sand. We were thinking, "what were we thinking?" until we got into the woods, where the conditions were mostly good. Except for the sheets of ice which was the story for most of the downhills (the thousands of skiers ahead of us had "snowplowed" because it was icy for them, too, as it had rained and frozen a couple days earlier). One man was at the bottom of a hill with the emergency team, shaking and freezing under blankets - rumored to have broken a hip, so we were actually REQUIRED to walk down this one. We prayed for him and for ourselves. It was unsettling.

So the condions overall may have been dangerous, but lets talk about this "constant elevation change". In all fairness, we were told in advance it was hilly. And yes, we were maybe a little cocky when we signed up and kept saying, "oh, come ON - we're Ironmen! How hard can it be?!" But my Garmin recorded it all. And now I want to apologize to all the skiers whom I probably deeply insulted with my "oh come on... comments". I'm sorry! I get it now! It's really, REALLY hard! ;-)

I don't know how to directly load the elevation page from my Garmin, but here are a few of the details.

Total distance: 15.6 miles
Total "climbs": 55
% Grade of easiest climb: 4%
% Grade of steepest climb: 35% (not a typo)
number of climbs above 10% grade: 26
number of climbs above 15% grade:18
number of climbs above 20% grade: 11
number of climbs above 30% grade: 5

yes, there were 34 climbs steeper than a 15% grade. With skis on your feet.

% grade of easiest downhill: -4%
% grade of steepest downhill: -37% (not a typo)
Number of descents we took off our skis and just walked down: 3

One of the few times we did exchange words was to say that we almost never had the chance to "skate" ski, like we had learned. It was: bomb-and-try-to-stay-alive for the down hill, then march-the-herringbone uphill, then bomb downhill... In all honesty, I can't say for certain if I would have been able to finish a full-length Birkie.

This is our finish photo. It took us 2:38:51. Then we got in the car and drove 4 hours home in a blizzard that actually took the lives of seven in Wisconsin. I'm glad to be home, glad to have done (even the shortened version of) the Birkie, and glad to have ski season OVER!!! ;-)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Six words

Hardest. Thing. I. Have. Ever. Done.

But I'm alive to tell about it! ... tomorrow... ;-)

I'm going to bed...

Friday, February 23, 2007

Birkie Update 1:40 pm Friday

OK - we are heading up to Wisconsin tonight whether the race is on or not. The forecast calls for snow now, so we are going. If it's canceled, IronLaura, Jeff, Greg and I are going to ski anyway. Watch for pictures!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Birkie Update 2:14 p.m. Thursday

Jeff is at the Expo right now, getting his race packet and there is a poster that says that due to lack of snow the race will be canceled UNLESS they get sufficient snow tomorrow. The forecast calls for 40% chance of flurries. I don't think that will be enough. If it IS enough though, the start will still be pushed back to 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, and the course will be shortened to 23K.

We can't move to the frozen lake like we did for the Mora Vasaloppet because it's been melting for two days and it's just a sheet of ice and puddles.

Guess this is a lesson in "be careful what you wish for"... I didn't REALLY want it canceled...

On a brighter note, we started our swim workout this morning with a timed 100 yard sprint. I did 1:09 with a wall-pushoff! Then at the end of the workout (55 minutes, 2500 yards) we timed another one and I did a 1:10.

Guess triathlon season can kick in if skiing really is over...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Earning money for being a "team" player

Bobby earned 4 dollars at his basketball game Monday night. Bob started paying him for interceptions, rebounds and steals (but not baskets).

There's one ball-hog kid on his team that never passes, just dribbles and shoots, whether or not he has a decent shot, or if there is another teammate wide open. He's a one-man show and it drives Bobby nuts. So to make sure Bobby never becomes "that kid", Bob started paying him for "team" play. So now Bobby's not so frustrated, because he's making money out there, even if he almost never gets to make a basket. I thought that was pretty clever - now the game's fun again.

Tuesday's kitchen spin. Much as I love these spin sessions and the parties that follow, I am so ready to be outside. It was more than 45 degrees out today. I may have to bundle up and ride.
Friday we (Laura, Greg, Jeff and I) leave for the Birkie. I've been hoping it gets canceled for lack of snow, but I heard today that they are trucking snow in. (Of all the snow they got in Colorado and New England; Wisconsin and Minnesota really got skipped over. So the race is still on... Laura and I will be wearing matching outfits, so even though we suck we will look hot. ;-)

Monday, February 12, 2007

First X/C Ski race complete!

I'm learning that all the x/c ski races have legends behind them. Below is an abbreviated explanation [OK, I took huge and probably illegal liberties cutting out parts to make it shorter for you] that I copied from the internet, about the origin of the Mora Vasaloppet. I found it interesting!

The tradition
Every year some 40 000 cross country skiers in Sweden, USA and Japan commemorate the marathon of one Swedish king-to-be. The majority take part in Sweden's Vasaloppet, which is the world's best-known ski race.

The trail is studded with blueberry soup [which was actually quite good - warm and very invigorating] and drink stands and all participants are invited to a hearty dinner after they have reached the goal line and collected their coveted Vasaloppet pins.

The historic background
The very first "Vasalopp" that took place in January 1521. At this time Sweden was occupied by the Danes and the young nobleman Gustav Eriksson Vasa had spoken at the Mora church in an attempt to rally his compatriots to take up arms against Kristian "the Tyrant". He was however not successful and decided to flee on skis to, Norway. The Dalecarlians subsequently had a change of heart and sent two of their fastest skiers, Lars and Engelbrekt, after him.

Eventually Gustav Vasa was able to liberate the country from the Danes with the help of a Dala peasant army and the "nation builder" went on to become King of Sweden 1523-1560. Historians are still unsure whether Gustav Vasa actually fled from Mora to Sälen, because the only source of information, is a propaganda chronicle that glorifies the great liberator's life.

In 1521 it took Lars and Engelbrekt one and a half day to catch up with Gustav Vasa in Sälen close to the Norwegian border.

The Minnesota Vasalopp
"There is a fine small city in Sweden," ventured Israel Israelson from Dalecarlia when a new Minnesota settlement needed a name. The suggestion was taken up and Mora, Sweden got a sister city and namesake in the USA. When the Minnesota residents wanted to strengthen the ties between the two cities, they decided to adopt the Swedish cross country ski race. Just like at the Swedish counterpart, the trails are studded with blueberry soup and drink stands. The home-stretch and finish line are set right in the centre of the city, just as in Sweden. No fewer than 2 000 skiers take part in what has become Minnesota's largest ski race.

Vasaloppet USA offers a 58k, a 35k and a 13k race. The 35k and 58k races split shortly after a mass start [just like the Ironman swim start, only people don't swim over you, there are skis and poles with razor sharp carbon tips flailing about. I'm exaggerating... a little...] north of the little town of Mora. The 58k race gives you the opportunity to ski one of the longest one-day marathon races in the USA. The first North American male and female finishers in the 58k race receive a free trip to Sweden to compete in the following year's Swedish Vasaloppet. [I did not win this trip, just in case you were wondering...]

This is a community event staged by over 700 volunteers, many of them Swedish descendants. It is a free-style race. This means that various skiing techniques including the "skating" style are allowed. [that's what kind of skis we used].

Next week's American Birkebeiner attracts some 8 000 skiers and some 35 000 spectators. The thirteenth century legend behind this race is the story of an invading force threatening to kidnap Norway's infant prince. Two Viking warriors (called Birkebeiner for their birch bark leggings) skied the baby, who was later to become King Haakon Haakonson, to safety. It is this fifty-five kilometer trail that forms the race.

The mass start line.

Jeff, Laura and me at the finish line. Our time was 2:06 and we did the 30K (it was shortened due to lack of snow). The winner was back in 1:15. Wasn't sure I was actually gonna mention that, but... ;-)

After we ate at the all-skiers "feed", we stopped by a store called The Crazy Ladies House... where insanity meets dignity. There were life-size stuffed ladies all over the place.

Jeff ponders what this lady is doing to this tree.

These poor ladies were hanging in this tree...

And this lady was riding her bike in the snow, so Laura and I joined her but we never found out where she was going.

Jeff ---- don't do it. The sign says, " Lucky winners will get their name in the newspaper for all their friends and family to see. Won't Mama be so proud?"
So my race recap is just that we had a great time, and we didn't even fall down once. It was a completely flat course, so we averaged 7:30's per mile. Faster than we ever run, so that's good to know.
Next weekend is the American Birkebeiner - the grandaddy of x/c ski races. It's really, really hilly and is 31.7 miles, so it's almost twice as long as the Mora. I feel like I'm ready. I wasn't sore even a little after the Mora, so I've got the mental confidence to get myself to the start line.
If I get some better pictures, I'll post them. Otherwise, as Boomer says, "stay tuned"....

Monday, February 05, 2007

SuperBowl at the Gunther's

Before the game the Gunther's hosted a spin session on the veranda. It was about 10 below zero, but Coach Troy had the Gear West Tri Club "Sweatin' to Spinervals". That's IronLaura, Dia, Marz Racer, and Steve below.

Lake Minnewashta is in the background, where a few minutes later two wild coyotes ran across. (Durn varmints!) Here are IronLaura and Helen toasting their martinis-in-styrofoam.

Eric, TaconiteBoy, and Greg watching the game:

After the game (so who won, anyway?) We ran out back, swam in the snow a bit, then hustled over to the hot tub. Seems everything gets turned into a triathlon... Below are Jeff, me and IronLaura. It seriously was 10 below and that is steam coming off our bodies.

Below is our Cheerleader Tryouts picture: Helen, me, IronLaura, Steve, Jeff and Greg.

Below Steve is verifying the temperature. That's our own Koach Kris' picture on the wall. He couldn't be here with us, so in true Minne-sow-tah fashion, we put him on a stick... He was at a coaching clinic in Green Bay.

Many of you know TriJack is coming to Zurich with us.... Buddy, did you know what you were getting into? Will you last a week with these people????

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Couple of pillows...

This one's Ally's for her room...

Below is Brian's pillow for himself and his girlfriend.

And Lisa's requested one with the t-shirt from her first-ever triathlon.

You already saw Momo's pink one:

Triboomer got this one:

IronNick got this one:

There will be more completed tomorrow - thanks so much to all of you for supporting this cause...

Pillow-sewing for LLS

Thank you everybody for your great response to the pillows. I have made several and have orders for about 10 more. At this point I have to draw the line and cannot add anymore. I have used up the material I bought, and will go get more so that I can finish the remainder. I'll get cracking at them since many of you want to give them as Valentine's Day gifts.
Again, thank you so much for your generosity! I'll post pictures of them as I make them...