Sunday, February 26, 2012

Orienteering: 90 Minute Score O at Nerstrand Big Woods SP

No snow-no problem, for the first time this winter. I headed for the second of MNOC's two winter meets, at one of my favorite parks, Nerstrand Big Woods. Format was a 90 Minute Score O. This is only my third, and one of the previous one was part of the 2010 Adventure Race Tune-Up which I did with Bryan. Andrei set a beautiful course and Pete W as vetter, who made sure that the controls were in place. Pete also created a promotional clip for the event.

Pete's Nerstrand Woods Score O Trailer
We had a good turnout and after we received the maps, about 5' before the start I was able to plot an approximation to a route. One of the issues with these type of events is the mass start and the associated inevitable pack running. I have to admit that I probably got a little help from some stronger orienteerers who happened to start along the same route as I did. But I kept my errors to a minimum even after the initial five or six CPs, when I was finally on my own.

Sequence showing my approach to CP207. (Photos Andrei Karpov) 
I hit 20 of the 24 CPs, in sequence, returning 3:35 to spare. My one real map reading error was with CP208, coming from 207. I overshot it by 100 m and lost probably 3 minutes in the process. I should have followed the creek bank, then I would have found it without any problem.

Punching in at CP211. (Photos: Andrei Karpov) 
I decided to cross the larger creek and tick off some of the CPs to the north. I think that was a good decision but in hindsight, I could have easily taken along CP215 before doing CP213. I lost some time thinking about how to get to CP222. The reentrant is in dense woods and not that easy to see from the grassy area to the south. I ended up crossing the woods, climbing to the open area N of the woods and then followed the vegetation boundary to the corner and ran straight to it. That made it very easy. I skipped CP223, too far to the north, and CP226, on a rather shallow reentrant in a dark green area.

Now, back on the S of the creek I picked off 214 and 216, followed by 217 and 219. No more time for 224, which I could have made if it hadn't been for missing time on 208. All in all quite happy with my result. Andrei was out taking photos, a treat to have pictures of yourself while running through the woods.

Done! (Photos: Andrei Karpov)

Also quite happy with my result, 6th place, see at MNOC Results.

Red is the actual track from my Garmin FR305, blue is what I could have
done if I hadn't been pressed for time. Note my error at CP208: ran too far
and had to backtrack.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Bitter-sweet: Last Session of Sisu Year-Round Group

It kind of sneaked up on us, after almost 10 months of working out once weekly with a group of like-minded people the Sisu Year-Round Group finally came to an end with one last workout on Valentine's Day. It was likely because of the holiday that only six of us--and no coach showed up. Tim had instructions from Coach Mike for an hill interval workout.
Seven (plus one warm-up) nice double-bump hill intervals at Green Acres with
a good recovery period.
Tim and Kitty had done the Pre-Birkie and were still recovering from the race in cold temps on slow snow and Dayton and I had put in 40 km on the north half of the Birkie Trail as well on Sunday. I was certainly still feeling my legs. Tonight, the Green Acres track was in great condition and covered with some of the fresh snow from earlier today and we made the best of it. During cool-down after the seven intervals Kitty gave Dayton some pointers for his upcoming participation in the American Birkebeiner.

After good wishes for upcoming races and the end of an odd (for lack of snow) ski season we split, looking forward to meet again, on the trail, or during next season's Sisu Year-Round Group.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Skating the North Half of the Birkie Trail

Left the house around 4:20 this morning, picked up Dayton in Shoreview and after a short pit stop in Hayward arrived at the County Highway OO trail head at 7:40. 

Pristine corduroy on the Birkie Trail and I'm the first to ski it!
We were the third car in the parking lot and since the others were skiing south, we skied on pristine corduroy for the first 15 km. I took a wrong turn and ended up having a little escapade on the classic trail. I took my first rest at the highest point of the trail at 527 m (1730 ft) where I had a good drink and a Hammer gel. 

Warming up my Hammer gel under my hat, next to my skin. Easier to suck it
out of the tube that way ...
On the way to the northern trail end, I skied across a few trails that were in today's North End Classic race. Dayton saw our sometime coach Andrew Tilman in the crowd, he won his age group. Skiers were warming up when I passed the start area and I finished the two km to the end of the skiable trail. Another Hammer gel pack and a good drink, a chat with a North End Classic volunteer who finished the end of his shift witha ski back to OO and off I went again. 

Had to wait for just a moment as a siren signaled the start to the race. On the way back, I had to hesitate a few times to let the racers pass. Stopped again on the apex of the Birkie trail, only for water this time. The hills felt harder as I got closer to the starting point but I made it. 

Finally skiing on real snow! The temps climbed from -15C to -5C during my ski and the total climb was 490 m per Garmin Connect, and 910 m per SportTracks, both with elevation correction enabled. In spite of the discrepancy between the two products doing a ski from OO to the start of the Birkie and back has 100 m more of climb than the Sisu Ski Fest in Ironwood.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

City of Lakes Freestyle Loppet

Like Chuck & Don's skijoring event yesterday, today's freestyle loppet was a shortened substitute for the full event. I parked at Mortenson's Construction (quite the campus for a builder) right next door to Breck School. I had been in that parking lot for Colin's high school hockey games a few times but it had been at night in the dark and I would have never guessed that it was adjacent to Wirth Park.

After taking the school bus (did you know that school buses have "Body Fluids Cleanup Kits?") shuttle to the main parking lot, I hiked back to the lower stadium area. On the way there, the classic skiers who had just finished were coming towards me, including Vinu from work, whose wife and in-laws had participated. Fun to see him! I now recall that he had told me that his wife and entire family were big time into the sport.

I switched from shoes to ski boots and parked my stuff in the coral. In order to kill some time I went to the vendors tent and checked out the wares. Chatted a bit with the owner of I do own a pair of theirs and am quite happy. My only regret is that they do not have any classic models or even wheels. To my question on that subject he said that it was too big of an investment for poor chances of return. I guess I will have to bite the bullet and acquire a more expensive model. 
Start of wave 5/6. I'm in center, bib 5029.

By now it was about 15 minutes to the start and I headed back. The 5xxx wave was allowed to line up ahead of the 6xxx skiers and I found myself next to MNOC club-mate Jim Mullins in the very front row. On the other side was a kid sporting St. Paul Central HS Arctic Commando suit and I chatted him up. Turned out he was a 2003 grad. Looked like a strong and competent skier and he ended up being the only one to round me, during the fifth lap. 

After we got going it became very quickly apparent that this would be a hard five laps. The entire loop, especially the uphills were solid ice, covered with very lose sugar. On stretches with deeper snow, it felt like the skis sank and it required some effort to pull them out again. On the steeper downhills, the sharp turns quickly lost this cover and became bare ice. The trail-side volunteers heroically jumped into gaps between skiers and raked snow back on. After the early frenzy of passing stronger skiers, I settled into a routine, staying with a lose group for quite for quite some time. I seemed to be doing better on the uphills while the others had an easier time on the downhills and the few level stretches. Towards the end of lap 2, I began rounding the first of  my cohort. During the following laps, the slower skiers became thicker and it took some effort during the uphills and some daring during the downhills to keep passing. There wer not too many falls, I was glad for that especially on top of the hill adjacent to the tubing area, as the choices were deep snow that could stop you cold in your tracks or bare ice. 

The official City of Lakes Foundation clip for my race. Afraid I look the best at start and finish ...

I think I managed my stamina well, as I was able to accelerate during the last lap. A kid from NDSU stopped for water at the upper stadium, I passed him and didn't see him again till we finished. I felt it was a good race, finishing a little ahead of the middle of the pack overall, in men's and in my age group.

My results--Overall Results

Saturday, February 4, 2012

City of Lakes Loppet Chuck & Don's Skijoring 7km

7 km is the original distance, two laps on Lake of the Isles. The two ersatz laps at Theodore Wirth added up to only 4.2 km, as per my Garmin watch. Shorter for sure but also zestier, because of the hills.

After joining the Sisu Masters Year-Round Group and starting preparations for the next ski season in May '11 I went out on a limb and signed up for a few races early: the Sisu Ski Fest in Ironwood, MI, which I later upgraded from 21 km to 42 km, both the Test Your Lungs skijoring and freestyle events and the City of Lakes Chuck & Don's Skijor and Freestyle Loppets. I was tempted to sign up for the Birkie, too, but changed my mind when I considered the numbers. As my buddy Gestur said, "that's 18,000 elbows and 9,000 a**holes."  I decided not to sign up for the Vasaloppet, either as it became obvious that this winter's snow remained mostly a pipe dream.

I couldn't do the Test Your Lungs because of my lungs, a nasty two-week cold with ear infection that put me out of commission. I declined to sign up for the Como Championships and the King Boreas skijoring race because they had to be moved to man-made loops at Green Acres. The Sisu Ski Fest Marathon was great, on fresh and real snow and I along with most other metro-area skiers was holding my breath about the City of Lakes events. One week before the event the organizers decided to move the events to Theodore Wirth Park man-made loops and it seems amazing that we are having the Loppet at all. I think if it hadn't been for the fog that blanketed the area for most of last week even the solid base at Wirth would have melted away.

For the first day skijoring event, which is normally held on Lake of the Isles I was a little worried because of my dog Mellie's propensity to turn around in steep downhills to grab the rope and there are plenty of downhills on this course and also because this would only be our third time out as a team this winter. Mellie was a trooper.

I took Mellie on a short warmup run but she was so excited that she made us fall in the first sharp downhill turn. So I brought her back, tied her up and reconnoitered the loop on my own. Turns out that the organizers did a good job routing the trails to make the hills more gradual for the event and my concerns evaporated.
Tractor-pulling dog
Because of the barking (including Mellie, the darn dog) I could not understand what was going to happen at the start area, which was quite narrow. The three first teams lined up abreast and were sent off, Mellie, who saw this from the third row went right after them. The officials jumped in the way and I looped back where they asked us to take of immediately. By now, Mellie was confused and had to be coaxed across the starting line. Once we got going she took things and the tow rope into her muzzle and we got going at a good clip.
That dog's got sisu! The first couple hundred meters I'm always pulled by
mouth. (Picture at by Marc Lahtinen)

Mellie's pulling the rope with her mouth got us delighted cheers from the spectators in the starting area. The woman who started with us had some trouble getting her dog to stay on the trail, whenever there was a turn, of which there were many, the dog wanted to go straight. We soon left her behind. We even caught up to a few people who left ahead of us or who had passed. Chris Sachs, one of of our sometime Sisu coaches and his German shorthair left us in the dust (and ended up winning the race).
Working hard

Fun with the turns. What a dog! (Thanks to Sarah Gutknecht for letting me
post this photo!)
Closing in on rivals
We actually had fun on the curvy trail, I just wish the snow had been a little better. In places, the sugar was ankle deep and the skis sank like in quicksand. Avoiding the occasional fallen skier added to the excitement. Mellie kept pulling hard during the first lap and about three quarters of the second. Only on the last hill did she slow down but did not hold me back. Great race, even though our nemeses Dallas and Comet Johnson and my doppelganger Chris Franken finished ahead of us.
Almost there!


A nice video from Youtube. Mellie and I are about 2:08 min. into the video, look for the sweaty bearded guy with bad hair.