Friday, December 31, 2010

Beginning Cross Country Skiing Season 2010-2011

If previous winter had wonderful conditions for all manner of snow sports, this year is even better. E.g last year just like this, we had an early start to the season. Unlike last year, we did not have a pre-holiday thaw and freezing rain, thus there were a few more skiable days (though it sounds like we will be hit with some rain over the last couple days of 2010).

Overall, I got almost twice as much skiing and skijoring in when compared to last year.

Skate Skiing044.6461.64
Classic Skiing14.77013.02
(Distances in km)

I skied mostly on the home courts, i.e. Highland 9-Hole for skijoring and Como for skate skiing. Like last year, I participated in the Como Park Champion ships where my performance showed my improvement in the sport. I had a wonderful interlude at Sugarbush, at Tofte, MN (Lynn had planned this as a family outing but sadly she wasn't able to come along due to a bout of the stomach flu).

On the equipment front, I replaced my damaged '08 Atomic Race Skate. Finn Sisu exchanged them free of charge for a pair of the 2010 model. So far, they have been working great.

Due to some ups and downs in the temps, I have been changing wax before every other session, it seems. My investment in the Toko Ski Vise Nordic and the T14 electronic iron paid off. James appreciates the iron  to wax his skis, I am only afraid that he will scrap up the bottom of the iron with the skis' metal edges.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Classic Skiing Homestead Loop, Sugarbush Trails, Tofte, MN

I decided after yesterday's 25 km to make today an easy one and also to use my classic skis, which I have ruefully neglected. After dropping James and Joe at Lutsen, I headed for Sugarbush where I did the Homestead Loop.
Parking to I, right to J, turn back at K, right at J, right at H,
left at G, right at F, left at E, right at C, B and A
Since today's outing was not as remote, I saw many more skiers. All were taking advantage of the unusually mild weather. At J intersection I chatted with some skiers who had come from the Onion River parking lot. They alerted me to some wolf tracks and scat on the trail.
Trail between J and K intersections
I had hoped to take the spur to the overlook above Chateau Leveaux, but my impression from the previous day had been correct, the trail leading south from K intersection was not groomed and looked overgrown. Snowshoes or BC skis might have been the correct mode for this excursion. So I returned to J to continue the Homestead Loop.

Venturing out to K had not at all been in vain as I got to more closely view the mess of wolf and deer tracks which suggested some drama that had very recently unfolded in the middle of the trail.
Dogs on the trail? Nope, it's wolf tracks ...
... and scat. 
After Picnic Loop, today's effort seemed slight to moderate. With the temperature hovering just above freezing, waxing was somewhat tricky. I re-waxed with Swix Purple Extra which came off thick and unwieldy. It was very slow and grippy but eventually brought acceptable performance.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Picnic Loop at Sugarbush Trails, Tofte, MN

I should really be putting in a rest day, but it's just so much fun! I woke up early but dozed in my soft bed at Bluefin Bay, listening to the radio until the daylight bekame apparent. I moved into the boy's room and sat in the brigth morning sun, gazing over Lake Superior. A little after 8:00 I started to rouse them and in expectation of a fun day on the slopes, they were soon up and assembling their gear. While waitig for them to get ready,  I studied the map of the Sugarbush Trail System. Since the the weather forecast for the coming days was sketchy, I decided to frontload my program with the long day and chose the Picnic Loop.
Straight from Parking, right at D, I and J, left at K, L, M, and N,
right at O end E and straight back to Parking
After dropping of James and Joe at Lutsen (and getting their ski passes), I headed for the Britton Peak trail head parking lot. There were a few other cars but not a person in sight. I had spoken to the owner of Sawtooth Outfitters where we had rented canoes for our 2009 BWCA trip. He had suggested to do the loop counter-clockwise. I had my hydration pack with a couple of liters of warm water, a couple of candy bars and a banana as well as some layers of warm clothing in the event of an emergency. I also had my fanny pack with my Canon D10 and Garmin Oregon 450, the latter strictly to record my progress. 
The Britton Peak trail head is connected to the Picnic loop via a short spur of green trails. I could quickly tell that the Sugarbush Trail Association is doing an excellent job grooming. the skating surface was firm and the classic track was well defined. Once I left the spur and moved onto the SE portion of the loop, the terrain became slightly more challenging, with gentle but long slopes. It seemed like the spur from K intersection, leading to an overlook point was not groomed, though some folks had broken their own track. I am planning to do a shorter classic ski tomorrow, maybe I'll check out that trail.

Almost the entire leg between K and L looked as though a herd of bison had stomped along. It looked like 4 or 5 people had decided to walk rather than ski. When I turned north from L, the tracks fortunately seized. After the gentle rise on this green leg, black segment started. Over the next 1.5 km, I gained close to 100 m in elevation. The downhills were steep, too, but never dangerously so. The excellent condition of the trail contributed to its safety, too.

I reached an overlook point just as two women arrived from the opposite direction. they graciously agred to take my picture. One of the woman told me that they had just relocated from Alaska to Embarrass, MN. Judging from their choice of abode and recreational activities they must be suckers for the boreal biome and its accompanying climate. In parting, they assured me that the remainder of the loop would be a walk in the park.

In the meantime I was sucking the last of the 2 liters out of my Camelback bladder. The banana and candy bars were wearing off, too and in spite of my trail acquaintance's assurances I was hitting the wall, literally and figuratively. I ascended a thankfully short stretch of trail so steep that I was tempted to walk. I hooked a ski in the soft snow on the side of the trail and kneed down. I made it. I was grateful when O Intersection came about, signalling the end of the long black leg and promising the end of the outing. When I reached the spur to the parking lot I accelerated on the fairly level trail.

The loop combined with today's weather presented an interesting challenge. For my Rex blue, skiing was fast in the sunny patches, though the snow had started to soften where the sun had been shining longer. In the shade, where the snow was holding the colder temps from previous nights, the skiing was much slower.

All in all a great challenge and a wonderful outing on Sugarbush trails.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Como Park Championships 2010

A beautiful morning, and a perfectly groomed skating surface. I did feel a little queasy to my stomach  but decided to not let that get in the way.

I'm the third in this group, bib #220.
Looks like I am dying, after barely 1/2 of the first of two laps. Pictures can
be seen at
Very happy with my performance, compared to last year, when my chip time was 39:26.3, while this year's is 34:02.3 .

Happy with my placement, too. 62nd out of 97 starting men. Last year I placed 88th out of 98 starters. See results at However, there is room for improvement, got to work my technique. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Pre-Storm Skijor

The augurs of the elements had been unanimous on this one: around midnight on Friday we were to get a good dumping of snow, lasting through at least the entire Saturday. This made me think that Saturday skiing might be challenging, if not impossible, certainly no fun. I was excited about the prospect of solidifying the until now fairly skimpy snow foundation with something more substantial but I did not want to miss out on a day of skiing. So I decided to to take advantage of a beautiful late Friday afternoon and do a couple of laps at Highland.
Mellie, pulling hard!

After work, I changed into more appropriate clothing, grabbed Mellie and the GoPro Hero HD and headed for Highland. Mellie was giddy with excitement and I have to admit, so was I. Much busier during daylight hours than very early mornings or late nights. Highland HS XC Ski team was out and various other skiers, too. After the arduous task of strapping on my skis with an hyper-excited dog tethered to me, I got moving. Some skiers were really hogging the skating lane, two and three abreast; fortunately they scrammed when they saw the Black-Lab-Express bear down on them. One group had another black lab, this one on the lose. He ran over to be friendly with the Mellster, it barely slowed us down. This first lap was likely our fastest at Highland, and the combined two laps was too.

The video was not ideal, because of the sea-sickness inducing motion of my head, and even more so because of a slight mis-orientation of the camera, showing rather more sky than necessary, and not enough dog action. I take it more as a proof-of-concept and will try experimenting.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

First Skijoring this Winter :)

I damaged my good Atomic Race Skate skis last Sunday at Como in a relatively minor stumble. I did not even hit the ground, but Finn Sisu declared them unsalvageable and said I should stop by to make sure the new ones would fit my weight.

I thought I'd be out a significant wad of cash and I was somewhat taken aback when I saw my old bindings already dangling from a brand new pair of skis. What if I would opt for a less expensive pair I thought to myself. Anyway, I stepped on the skis and they were declared a good fit. I asked what the damage would be and was told in no uncertain terms that there was none, as my old skis were already on the way back to the factory. I was stunned. Another five minutes, time it took to have my bindings professionally mounted, I walked out of Finn Sisu with a brand new pair of Atomic skis in hand. They got themselves a loyal customer yesterday!

I had to try those skis and went out with the Mellster in tow (or more precisely I being in tow of Mellie). So I donned ear muffs, a headlight, my lobster claw mitts and at 5:30 AM with a starry sky overhead and a brisk 3F and crunchy snow on the ground, we were the only ones at the Highland 9-Hole course. Of course that is not counting the three deer that Mellie thought would be a fine breakfast for a physically active dog. Fortunately, I knew from experience how to divert a dog with deer on his mind: I reeled her in on the pull rope and lifted her a bit, something she very much dislikes. The second lap was one of our best, Mellie being very focused, not pulling to hard but leaving no slack in the rope either! A great way to inaugurate those new skis!