Saturday, December 26, 2009

Como Championships

My first xc skiing race since 1983 and my first skate skiing race ever (third time out on skate skis ever). You see that I am suppressing any inclination towards great expectations. Fortunately, I had not any.

I am well familiar with the Como loop from my forays on snowy weekend mornings. When I strapped on my skating outfit for the first time just a week ago, I did not have any expectations either. I finished my two laps faster than I had ever done on classic skis, in something like 43 minutes. I am fully aware that my technical skills are minimal if not non-existent. I am determined to take some class to change that. I do not ski to race but I did stumble over the Como Championships when checking trail conditions at

For the start, I hung back, towards the rear of the pack for the mass start. Good thing that I did, because just about everyone was faster. But I felt good and I felt as though I was moving well, to my own standards at least. I was part of a a somewhat drawn out group of three skiers. With one in particular I kept trading the lead. He was a little faster uphill, while I did better downhill, in particular at quick-stepping the high-speed turns at the bottom of the hills. Unfortunately, I got a little too close to him during the second-to-last downhill and fell. That may have potentially cost me a shot at passing and finishing ahead of him, though I have to admit that that would have been a long shot.

Anyway, I am now aware of what should be my priorities: improve my technique. And keep skiing.

Results (I'm waaaay at the bottom)
Garmin Connect Summary

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My First True Skate Ski

Got up early this morning, 5:30 or so. When I went out to get the paper, it had just started snowing. But by the time I had read most of the paper and done the Sudoku,there was about 0.5" of fresh snow. Good enough, I decided to try out the new and freshly waxed Atomic Skate Race skis, today sans dog.

First I had a bad surprise when my Forerunner 305 would not turn on. It sat in the cradle after uploading the new data, sometimes it turns on. I took the spare unit and headed to Como Park. The track had not been groomed nor had it seen much traffic this morning. Two, maybe three skiers had skated, the traditional nordic track had also seen a little use, for obvious reasons numbers are harder to estimate. At first, the skating seemed to come quite naturally, but I have to admit that I got winded pretty quickly. I also noticed that the tracks left by my predecessors seemed much longer than my own. What was I doing wrong? I was getting so tired that I half decided to stop after only a single lap, but in hindsight I am glad I kept going because all of a sudden it clicked. I had been trying to use both of my legs with equal strength. When I started I push-glide sequence, things began improving. Push right, glide left helped me recover on the glide. Now I began paying attention to alternating the push leg. I definitely feel that my right works better as the pushing leg but I was able to switch to left on my right turns and when my right needed a little break.

Things to work on: my climbing technique, and switching back and forth between right push and left push.

I ended up having a faster and less tiring second lap. As a special treat, I observed a hawk eating a squirrel, just meters from where I was skiing by on the trail.

By the way, the Forerunner started working again after a soft reset. I don't know why Garmin makes it so difficult to find that type of troubleshooting and self-help information. Instead I read about the soft reset at this site.

Friday, December 18, 2009

First Skijoring of the Season

Snow is here, but there's not quite enough of the white stuff. Como Park was groomed last weekend but I did not trust what I saw when I jogged by. Later, during James' hockey practice, I hiked out onto the track laid out on the Highland nine-hole golf course to check conditions. Out in the open, there's enough snow, but close to or under trees, the ground is showing. We do need more snow, it's wearing thin. Too bad that the snow they were announcing earlier this week has not materialized.

Not enough snow means more time to wax those skis! On Monday, I had taken advantage of the Finn Sisu weekly waxing clinic to brush up on my skills. I had a day of classes and practice on waxing skis when I took the course to become initiateur de ski de fond in Belgium in the early 1980s. Either I have become more patient since then or waxing has become easier. The guy at Finn Sisu made it look easy, and it was easy. While I was working on my good pairs I thought that I should just do my old Landsem touring/telemark skis as well.

I did, and I took Mellie for a spin at the Highland 9-hole. No way to stay in the classic track, there was lawn showing every 100 m or so. We mostly stayed on the skating lane, and were thus able to avoid most rough spots. But those touring skis are heavy to skate (almost 4kg for the pair, with boots, as opposed to 3.5kg for my classic outfit and barely 3kg for the skate skis). A good workout for my quads. As I said before, my dog's obsessed by the devil in cold weather, she turns around, grabs the leash, feigns attacks, etc. Not such a great combination for skijoring. The first 400-500 m are great, she's got so much kinetic energy built up that she just goes, goes, goes. But then, she gets just a little out of breath, and the first hill comes and she gets bored. There are so many interesting scents, and occasionally one has to piddle. But she is a good sport and listens to me, at least keeping the tow out from under my skis. We did have a couple of falls, one, where I just lost control on a down hill and sat down, the other, also on a downhill, she decided in mid run that she had to investigate a scent off the trail. I got pretty tangled up that second time. We also let one skate skier pass who caught up to us due to our antics.

I did not have any great expectations for the first time out, on questionable snow and with beat-up equipment. When I looked at my Garmin I was amazed to see that we were doing a 4:38 pace. This is our best time on this course yet. Was it the wider touring skis, the fresh wax or Mellie turning into an adult dog? I do not know.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

New Orienteering Shoes Arrived Today: Inov-8 Mudclaw 330

Sadly, after O-season is over for me, for this year, unless I squeeze in a trip to Belgium. My Inov-8 Mudclaw 330s, size 12, medium arrived today.

After reading much back and forth on various posts on heel blisters and fit narrower than advertised I was somewhat anxious. I put them on immediately, even before changing out of my work clothes. They fit like gloves or rather socks, firmly with no tightness, maybe maybe with the exception of the top of my right foot big toe. But that is a known issue for me, in most cases my to molds the materials of most of my running shoes. An exceptions were my Adidas Marathon Trainers, a shoe I otherwise liked very much. The right toe ended up poking a hole through the mesh with the two pairs I owned. The Inov-8 materials feels yielding yet tough, I doubt I will have an issue with this. The heel feels very nice, too, and the knobby studs do not bother at all, even on the smooth surface of my home. However, I should not make a judgment before I take a run... Maybe when we have some snow.

Update: I now used the Inov-8s on several occasions. The first time, I developed some heel blisters. I taped the second time, which worked well. I meant to tape the third time but forgot. Still some discomfort after about 8 km in rough terrain, but no blister. After that, they were fine. See other entries in my blog.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Some thoughts about Orienteering in the US

I started looking at trips to Belgium, to check on my aging parents and visit my brother and other family and friends. Like on previous occasions I thought it would be neat to participate in an orienteering event.

There are seven clubs in the Flanders, organized under the VVO and 14 clubs in the Walloon region of Belgium, organized under FRSO. The odd and typically Belgian thing is that the FRSO does not even refer to the Flemish organization on its website.

So Belgium has 21 clubs organizing 2-3 events each per year in an area 1/8 the size of Minnesota (or roughly the size of Massachusetts). That means that there is an O-meet somewhere in Belgium almost every weekend and also that the maximum travel time to any meet is below two hours. Here is a link to the meets organized by members of FRSO (OLVE was my club prior to moving to the US).

I was contemplating participating in the Possum Trot race near Kansas City, MO as I had traveling to the US O Championships held bractically in our back yard near Greenbush, WI. However, both involve a road trip of about 8 hrs each way, more than I can handle right now ... Pretty sad.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Orienteering Katherine Abbott Park, Mahtomedi

Night orienteering, took Bryan from work along. We made a good team. Bryan has some ability in this area, definitely worth developing. When we got to Katherine Abbott Park, nobody was there. Except for a couple of cars. Bryan thought have they started already but I said nobody is here yet, they are probably still setting up. I even went to the orienteering sign and took a cursory look. I seemed to just say "Orienteering Event." I guess the fine print spelled out that the event was to start at Ian's house. Finally, helped along by another wayward orienteerer, we were put on the right path and headed for the start.

A beautiful night. I heard later that this was the mildest Veteran's Day in many years.

View Orienteering Katherine Abbott Night O in a larger map
A nice little sprint course with a micro-O at the end. For me, this was the first night O since 1983 or so, and my first micro-o ever. The sprint portion was fun, but the micro-o was frustrating. It felt like the treasure hunt from hell circling Ian's house, with decoy control flags galore. Ended up with a DNF because of 3 dropped controls and one bad punch. Should I attribute this to the car accident earlier this week, the time pressure I felt because I needed to get James to a hockey game (he scored, yeah!). Probably more due to my ineptitude and to the fact I was not listening to Bryan. Nevertheless, it was great fun!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Arctic Commando Trail Run 2009

The second edition of St. Paul Central HS Nordic Ski Team's fall fund raising event. Weather-wise, this seemed like a repeat of last year: chilly, even with a few snow flakes in the air. Fortunately, they changed the route a little to avoid going up the sledding hill right next to the community center, that really was a killer last year. The ground was slippery under the freshly fallen leaves, result of the rainy weather we've been having, and the hills were hard to climb. The views from the top overlooking the Mississippi River Valley were rewarding. This year, I only caught one; despite my best efforts I was not able to catch the two young women about 50 m ahead of me. My pace was 3 seconds slower per km over last year's event (2008 results here). Getting old ;^) Finished 8th of 35, for complete results, see

Garmin Connect - Activity Details for Arctic Commando Fundraiser at Battle Creek Park

View Arctic Commando Trail Run at Battle Creek in a larger map

Pictures at Flicker Thanks to Tom Hysell for taking these great photos and making them available, I don't have many pictures of myself in action.

Link to all Arctic Commando trail runs.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Garmin Connect - Activity Details for Como Park Fartlek

Introduced fartlek to my regular running route. See at Garmin Connect. I realize that this is not a true fartlek because my pulse did not get back down after the third interval, but at least I introduce variety in speed.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Orienteering--Nerstrand Big Woods SP

View 2009 Nerstrand Big Woods Orienteering in a larger map

A few sprinkles when I got there but nothing serious. I love Nerstrand Big Woods, good memories despite that twisted ankle a few years back. This time, my main challenge was as usual one of the long stretches through the inside of th woods. Pretty featureless and thus difficult to navigate. Number 3 took me way longer than it should have and I got turned around close to the intersection near control #11 losing valuable time.

Here is the route on Garmin Connect Orienteering Nerstrand Big Woods SP Red, and here are the results at MN Orienteering Club

One funny detail: take a look at the distance measurement on Garmin Connect: exactly 10 km, h ow likely is that?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Orienteering Lake Maria State Park

View 2009 Lake Maria SP Orienteering in a larger map

Check here for my route and splits: Garmin Connect - Activity Details for Orienteering Lake Maria SP

Ran into a nice buck and then three does. The first asters were blooming. Just a gorgeous afternoon, without being too hot, too restless for the mosquitoes to get me. But unable to avoid all the burrs and brambles. Literally kissed the soft black dirt at the bottom of a mud hole. I must have looked pretty funny with sweaty mud running down my face.

Result: smack in the middle, as usual 12th of 24 ... see here, look for the Red Course

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Orienteering: Lake Elmo Sprints

Two nice sprints on a nice summer night.

Sprint 1 was longer, but Sprint 2 seemed physically tougher.

Results at

Sprint 1

View 2009 Lake Elmo Sprint 1 in a larger map

Sprint 2

View 2009 Lake Elmo Sprint 2 in a larger map

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Orienteering Battle Creek Sprint

View 2009 Battle Creek Sprint in a larger map

Some refreshing sprinkels on a beautiful summer night of orienteering.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Westside Run, from Boys & Girls' Club

Nice new place to run, While Colin and/or James are at soccer practice. It's along Hwy 52 but I don't see too much of it because it's heavily wooded. Good place to do some hill training. Next time I will try to make it down to the river to take a look at the pivot bridge.

View Westside Run, from Boys & Girls Club in a larger map

Monday, May 18, 2009

Orienteering at Lebanon Hills East

What a beautiful day! I did the red course, 8.4 km as the crow flies. Pretty happy with my result, placed in the middle of the pack: Lebanon Hills Results The controls were not too challenging, thanks to lakes, topography and an abundance of well established trails. I took my time to pick the best (not necessarily shortest) route and had no instances where I had a hard time finding the control. Hit a little less than hip-high fence at full speed and got an ugly gash on my thigh. It does not hurt and seems to be healing well. One odd thing was the prohibition to use the horse trails. I did not realize this until I noticed the red Xs when reading the map while jogging on one of them. I got off immediately. Rather this way than one of the guys who was stopped by a patrol on horse-back.

View Lebanon Hills Orienteering in a larger map

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Fort Snelling Run

Colin needed to be at Ft. Snelling fields 45 minutes before game start. Plenty of time for one of my favorite runs in the Twin Cities. Last year, one of the first time that Mellie came along, she treed a racoon! Today, she took a dip in the Mississippi and did some serious wading. Only negative: too close after dinner, there was quite a bit of sloshing going on ...

View Fort Snelling Run in a larger map

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bike Ride to Work at TR West in Eagan

Rode to work for the first time since August 8 of last year! And what a wonderful morning. Left our house at 6:00 AM sharp. The river, other bodies of water and the park along Interstate 35E between Lillydale and Hwy 110 were covered in a light mist which, in the first hour of daylight, gave the landscape a dreamy quality. I am so glad I had my rear wheel trued and the missing spokes replaced. What a difference that made, though I was with just under an hour more than six minutes slower than last time I did this stretch. Must get my bike legs again I guess ...

View Ride to Work at TR West in a larger map

By the way, the ride home was much better, in spite of headwind, higher temps and more traffic, almost 5 minutes. Why? (a) I discovered that the rear wheel was misaligned and scraped along the fork. Like riding with the breaks engaged. (b) Hit some lights (Hwy 110, Sheppard Road and W 7th) in a very opportune way. Does not happen very often and these can be real stinkers. (c) Tried to keep up to, pass and shake off some hard-core recreational bikers. Not bad for my 30+ year old steel Schwinn Super LeTour II! (d) Bicycle legs coming in early? I would hope so but we'll talk about that next time I take the trip.

Monday, April 27, 2009

"Candenza Music Run" North Loop

At Mississippi went right (or north) instead of left. Ran along the Town and Country Club on both its western and northern edge. Then along the freeway through Desnoyer neighborhood. That must sound rather drab, but it is much more quaint and quiet compared to the southern loop along Summit.

View Larger Map

Monday, April 20, 2009

Snelling to East River Rd. or the "Cadenza Music Jog"

This is a stretch I run when James or Colin have take their music lesson at Cadenza Music (the "dungeon of music") on Snelling, across from O'Gara's. Now I could be going to O'gara's to read a book and have a couple of cold ones while waiting for the boys to be done, but besides being publicans they are also REpublicans and I only give them my business when I have guests from the Old Country or when Mischke is playing. More to the point, it would also get expensive to drink a beer instead of just waiting in the car--or going for a run.

There are a couple of issues with this stretch:

1. Three fairly busy roads intersect the run: Fairview, Cleveland and Cretin. And since they each intersect the entire city, I am hitting them twice each. They do provide a nice way to introduce some variation in speed: slow down for a red light or put the pedal to the metal when it's green.
2. There is downhill and return is uphill. No big deal because it's very gradual but there is a psychological effect. I guess this needs to be part of training, too.

Today it was cool and blustery. the Mellster was perky and wanted to check out every squirrel. On the other hand she was very good with her fellow running dogs, i.e. she kept going straight when crossing another canine companion runner.

For a variation I ran Exceter Pl. and saw Max, waved at him and he waved back.

Here is the stretch:

View Snelling to E River Rd. Run in a larger map

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Orienteering Sand Dunes State Forest

I did the red course, 13 controls 6.6 km as the crow flies. Super weather and leafless trees made this much easier than usual, but I was slow, as evidenced by the results. Nasty prickly ash brought some scratches on my forearms. Only had trouble with #10, which was only 200m from #9. I ended up starting over from #9 and carefully walking the stretch, counting steps. Even then it was not evident.

I used my new thumb compass for the first time. Until now, I had been using the Suunto Arrow 5. I did not like the Suunto because it would stick if not perfectly level. I decided to try the Moscompass Competitor Model 9 short thumb plate left (9XL). I found the short thumb plate very comfortable and after being taken aback by the size of the compass (it is "full" size, like a regular base-plate compass) liked that IT DID NOT STICK, which helped orienteering the map very much! Very happy with my purchase at, which also has a ton of links to useful and free orienteering information.

View Sand Dunes SF Orienteering in a larger map

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Akumal-Laguna Legartos Jungle Jog

This is the trail Map at MotionBased, and this is my entry at Goolge Maps. This was fun, meant to get started jogging in hot weather and explore the area a little bit, Including Laguna Legartos. Even though I scouted out the trail head on the previous night, I needed three attempts on neighboring prseudo trails before I picked the correct one. Smooth sailing to the spur going to the Laguna and to another one, too. The trail is well defined and lined on its sides by lime stones. But pst the last spur to the Laguna it became more and more overgrown. My progress went from running to jogging to walking to bushwhacking. I finally gave up, surrounded by harp-pointed agave and entangled in thorny acacia, still seeing the trail continue in a straight line, about NNW. Returned via the beach from a little park.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Wardrobe Malapropism

Should be obvious by now that one of my secret pleasures is Nordic skiing, with or without canine companion. I have a variety of outfits, including my uncle Harry's 1970s vintage downhill racing bibs, made of spandex or something similar, which he donated to me when his belly grew too portly for this very snug-fitting garment. I like those because on the trail they make me look like I know what I'm doing (I do not) and because they have knee patches which are very nice in colder weather.

It was colder this last weekend and thusly I donned the navy "jet" pants, complemented by a pair of bright yellow (think lemon) ski boots. We dropped Colin of at the barber's with instructions to walk over to Target after being shorn, where we would pick him up. Pooch and I had a wonderful time in spite her repeated attempts to entangle me in the tow rope, and we managed two full laps at a decent clip on the Highland Golf Course track.

Back at the car I noticed that I forgot to pack the mobile phone which I had planned to use to reconnect with my offspring. No prob, I thought, I'll just walk to the Target customer service desk and call him from there, which I did. As I strode confidently across the parking lot I noticed a mom bending to her ten-year old pointing my way and talking to him behind her hand. Obviously I was not dressed for the occasion. Glances of this type came my way while I was on the premises. I was not intimidated, though and wore uncle Harry's trousers as a badge of honor.

When I was able to reach him, Colin had left already, allegedly because he was done with his shopping and did not want to wait around for me. The latter part I believe but I think he did not wait because he wanted to avoid being seen with his ol' man.

Conclusion: you are more prone to be noticed when you are in a sporting outfit than when you wear trousers with a crotch located at knee height, with nails, nose rings and other hardware stuck through various protuberances of your body, your hair in colors that cannot be found in nature, your skin adorned with pictures that would have made your second-grade teacher blush or with your belly-button exposed and your love-handles overrunning your too-tight jeans.

I think I will make a point to go shopping après-ski from now on, maybe I'll be famous one day!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Highland Moonlit Skijor

Highland Skijor
Mellie and I decided on a night time skijor while James was at hockey practice. At 3/4 moon I thought we'd have enough light. Unfortunately it was not, as evidenced by my erratic route veering from the groomed trail. Mellie was a bit distracted by bushes, trees, fellow skiers and finally a pair of good-sized deer that leapt across the trail. I yelled "bogeys incoming from two o'clock," unfortunately my "tail" gunner took this as an order to get into the pilot seat and took off after them, dragging me along. Other than that, beautiful!

View Larger Map