Gear West Ski and Run Podcast
See all episodes here.
State Meet & Mora Vasaloppet Recap
Tune in for Maple & Speedy as they get comfortable and talk about the track season, Nike's recent two hour marathon attempt, snowmaking at Orono High School, and the recent Loppet Foundation fundraiser. While Lolo Jones didn't manage to make it out to GW for the podcast, Tony brought donuts and the day was saved.
State Meet & Mora Vasaloppet Recap
Speedy and Maple are back to jaw about all things running. They recap the St. Patrick's Day Stumble at Gear West, talk about the upcoming Run the Lakes, and prepare for upcoming group runs, such as the 8:45am Wednesday morning run from behind the store (public welcome!). Adam interjects at the end with questions about VO2Max and running technique, concerning which Speedy and Maple willingly share their knowledge.
State Meet & Mora Vasaloppet Recap
Tony Mommsen, normally the behind-the-scenes man for the Gear West Ski and Run Podcast, takes the reins at his annual North Shore Trek, on the shore of Lake Superior. During a week of fabulous skiing in northern Minnesota, Tony sits down with some of the participants in the Trek to talk about snow conditions, adventures, and, most of all, the fabulous food. As our premier waxless ski expert, Tony puts them through their paces in the backcountry and on groomed trails.
State Meet & Mora Vasaloppet Recap
Jan Guenther joins Speedy and Maple to chat about the 2017 Birkie that wasn't. They talk about what their experience was, from waxing skis, to working the expo, to playing amateur weathermen, and share stories from a former Birkie-gone-warm.
State Meet & Mora Vasaloppet Recap
Mike and Speedy talk Minnesota State Meet, Mora Vasaloppet, warm winters, snow out west and back east, new ski offerings from Fischer, upcoming races, and test ski fleets. While we were hoping to get Matt Fox and Brian Knutson as guests, we'll catch them next time. Enjoy occasional interjections by Tony, Adam, and Corey as they sit around and steal Maple's donuts.
Nordic Night Fever
Jan Guenther leads a conversation with five other Birkie veterans-- Lynne Cecil, Ben Popp, Andrew Poffenberger, Jordan Roby, and Brenda Gauvin-Chadwick-- covering topics ranging from getting to the race to nutrition during the race, and everything in between.
(part of the intro to the panel was never taped)
Jan - And we have Jordan here, who has fixed many of my problems. He is a sports chiropractor, strength and conditioning specialist. So we did Ironman together, of course I never saw him from the start. But he keeps me going.
Lynne - Another cool fact, Jordan was born the year I won the Birkie.
Jordan - You had to say that.
Jan -Then there’s me who only got second at the Birkie. Then there’s Corey (Gear West employee) who won the Prince Haakon.
Lynne - And he calls himself a Birkie Champ. He’s got a little trophy.
Jan - So that’s our panel - I have some awards for best questions.
QUESTION - Ben. Please clarify the parking situation at the Birkie. Tell me we are not doing away with parking at the high school and downtown.
Ben - We are doing away with parking at the high school. The reason that came about was - every year we send out surveys to get feedback to learn what people want. One of the biggest issues was the length of wait lines at pickups. We only get 54 buses - that’s all three surrounding counties. There biggest challenge is how quickly they can turn them around from multiple destinations. So we only send out, typically, 11 buses out of Donnellyn and three out of the high school. So only 14 buses, but because of the time period, so that was one of the issues that was slowing them down. By moving to just two parking destinations, Como and Birkie Ridge they can reduce the wait time to just 3-5 minutes for anybody. So we’re going to try it this year and it might not work, but the concept is all drop off at those two locations. There is not a drop off at Cable, You can drop off a Cable, You can drop off at Birkie Ridge. You can park at Como, you can park at Birkie Ridge. That’s on Saturday, of course. On Friday it’s all at Birkie Ridge. This is more for for Saturday than Friday, there are not as many skiers on Friday, is the community. It’s a small community, they love all 40,000 people coming, but some of the downtown businesses, with so many people there, that nobody can get to their stores. So there was a dialog on how we can keep parking open for residents and downtown customers. So the compromise was that we would identify a parking lot that would be only for spectators. So that’s how Donnellyn Field also became the spectator parking lot. So I’m sure you have all read the participant guide, cover-to-cover. The idea is that Donnellyn Field will be spectator parking for Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Jan gives person who asked the question a cool prize. A Buff.
QUESTION - Another one for Ben. Creating a separate classic trail is the best thing the Birkie has ever done. Now I’m not sure if you screwed up the Birkie by separating the Birkie and the Korte. How has the acceptance been? What has the feedback been? In terms of registration. We’ll know in two-and-a-half weeks if it’s a success or not. What’s your feeling on this?
Ben - The motivation behind this was. I shouldn’t say the single motivation. But the demographic of the Korteloppet is over 60% are under the age of 25 and almost a majority are women. Two important groups if we are interested in growing skiing. We love the 45-65 year old males, but, there are plenty of them doing it. That was a big part of it, how do we give them an experience. The feedback we were getting from the Korteloppet skiers after Telemark closed was that they felt underwhelmed by their experience. So that was certainly in the back of our minds, how can we give them an experience? We’ve juggled ideas of starting them at OO at seven in the morning or at three in the afternoon. What are the advantages and disadvantages of having the Korte on a different day. One of the disadvantages is that it costs more and two the volunteer piece. I would say that 80% of the comments have been pretty favorable. Many of the families say it’s great. On Friday I can watch Junior my husband race and Saturday they can watch me race. There has been a lot of support for that. I would say 80% thought it was a great idea. 15% thought it was the worst idea ever and 5% said “whatever”. I would say from a participatory stance, we have more Korteloppet skiers than we’ve ever had. We’ve had the largest number ever register. As far as a cap, the limiting factor is downtown, where we can handle about 7,000 skiers at any given time — coming through the changing and the finish line. One of the biggest concerns we’ve had as we work through it is the grooming, Will it be great, will it be crap? If you’ve ever skied the day after the Birkie you may have found that it’s some of the best skiing ever. Any time you take that many skiers over it it just smashes it down - it’s like you are skiing a Wirth or Hyland. And then you take the big machine and till it up and you have the best skiing ever. One danger is if it doesn’t go below freezing Friday night and in to Saturday - then they are going to ski on mush snow and it will be really terrible. So we had to weight out all those positives and negatives and that’s how we arrived at the decision we made. What will happen? We will find out over the coming year. We will ask for feedback from everybody - we did this for a year, was it good, bad, or otherwise? Then make a decision from there.
QUESTION - How much is your performance affect if you don’t get a good night sleep? I swear I don’t get more than an hour or two because I am so nervous.
Jan - I’m going to direct this to Lynne, who throws up before big races.
Lynne — I don’t sleep much. I do now because I care less about how I do. Back in the day, when I skied a little bit faster, I didn’t sleep very much or each much either. Even brushing my teeth I would gag. I would say, try to sleep on Thursday, but even if you don’t sleep on Thursday you’re still okay. I mean, it’s to be expected and your body is excited - I don’t eat because my body is ready to go and I don’t need it. Jan will eat a three course meal. When I see her I think I’m going to throw up watching her eat. She’s just enjoying her yummy food.
Jason - From the literature the 48 hour rule - the two nights before is the most important the week leading up. That goes with nutrition as well. If you’re not eating before, glycegen stores as far as you muscles being able to hold sugars. The sleep is much more important 2-3 nights before. Also, that’s typically when you take the day off - two days before. Tune-up is the day before. I’m in the same boat, big races, maybe an hour or two. I used to throw up too. If it’s a big race and you’re not nervous it means you don’t care enough.
QUESTION - I’ve done the Birkie several time and I’m always looking for something new and exciting. Would you consider having a ski-a-thon?
Ben - As a continuous ski-a-thon or as a weekend ski-a-thon?
RESPONSE - Either one - my thought is you switch skis during the race.
Ben - A continuous pursuit. If you have ideas please send them to us — Our goal is to retain the integrity of the event and also find new ways to make it exciting. We have talked about having a category like the Birken where you have to carry 3.5 kilos or whatever it is and we have also talked about having a combination - it ended up being the Korte - there is a group that classic skis the Birkie backwards on Sunday. So we’ve talked about whether we could have another event on Sunday that would be an opposite event where you would change your bib where you ski it the other way with the opposite technique. The challenge is, it’s one thing to do it for 100 or 300 but if we do it for 5,000, how and I going to stage 5,000 skis at OO? And who’s going to get it where? Al always tempers my enthusiasm - he says “you’ve got a great idea, but how and I going to carry it out?”. So, it’s a good idea.
Jan asks a QUESTION — This question is for Andrew — Andrew, can you tell us what’s happening on the East side?
Andrew - Currently we do not have any man-made ski loops. We are revisiting. Last year Battle Creek was the location where we were going to have man-made snow. We were dependent on State funds. As of now, we still do not have a bonding bill from last year. Moving forward we are going to need a lot of voices. It’s good to be in front of you guys tonight, whether you’re on the West side or not. We are in your hair six days a week skiing on your man-made loops. We will need your voices as we move forward.
Jan - Battle Creek is a fantastic place to ski.
QUESTION — Is Battle Creek funded by the State Ski Pass?
Andrew - Yes it is. One interesting fact, If you ski ten laps of the five k at Battle Creek, with the Homologated five k you ski 1.4 times the climbing of the Birkie. It’s good training.
QUESTION - Can I ask a history question? Lynne - What year did you win the Birkie? What technique did you win the Birkie with? Was wax invented?
Lynne — The year was 1990
Jason — That was a great year.
Lynne — Skating had been going since 1985 (I think). or 1986. 85 was my first Birkie - classic. 86,87,88,89 - Did it take me that long to win? Because once skating took off I could just skate, I was a downhill skier. But the year - I’m thinking of a picture - I meant to bring it. It was the first time I skated it, I had classic skis, Brian Knutson had cut the tips off, I had Alpha boots (classic boots) - there were no skate boots. There were no skate skis. By 1990 they had skate skis - and maybe even high fluoro waxes — do you remember Jan? (she did not think so) — I was on the Fischer/Salomon ski team, we would travel around the country doing those Great American Ski Chase races. The Birkie was just one of them. I was doing it with a team, which was just awesome. There were about eight of us. And Steve —— president of Swix was on that team. When Fischer first came out with a skate ski it had a metal edge. I still have mine - it will blow your mind. Jan — They were afraid you would wear out the edge
QUESTION — After doing the Korteloppet for several years, I’ll be doing the Birkie for the first time this year. I am just turning 60. My big concerns are how to I keep up my energy levels and fluids and such? low blood sugar is a concern too.
Brenda - I have low blood sugar challenges - I had a pancreas taken out, I had a major surgery, so I’m having to deal with being a type-1 diabetic. And learning to ski and all of those things in my life right now. So, I would say, eat at every food stop, as much as you can, without throwing up.
QUESTION — Cookies and bananas?
Brenda - No - I go for Gus and energy drinks. In some of the big races in Europe, Like the Swedish Vasaloppet - that’s 90km, I just drink everything, the blueberry soups, chicken broth,
Andrew — One thing that high end skiers do is carry their own hydration. Many of you are doing this as well. This is something you should be playing with all year. Making sure you have something that sits well with your stomach, the Birkie is a scary time to throw something new at it.
Jan - The key is to practice all year. When I try to do hydration during a race - I try to grab my bottle and I take out three people. (Jan gives a prize of chocolate to the person to asked the question — I believe the chocolate is from Kuhl Chocolate of Minneaopolis — spectacular!)
Lynne — Find out what nutrition is sponsoring the race you are skiing - then train using that gel or energy drink. If they don’t sit well in your stomach then carry your own for sure.
Jason — I’ll add one more thing, Does anyone know what they are carrying? Is it Nuun? Perfect. Gels are the most commonly used - some people have no trouble - some are okay for an hour or two hours before they have trouble. Just make sure you train with the one you are going to race with. Try different gels, because it is usually the type of sugar in the gels that the stomach is not responding well to. Some people feel nauseous, like they want to gag. It is usually not that you don’t like gels - it’s what kind of gels are you using? Multi dextrin, sucrose, glucose, there are different types. Bananas and cookies are great, their going to much more difficult to digest if you are at a high intensity level. If you are just putzing around to the finish, I would say go bananas and cookies all day. If you are trying to hammer and crush hills, you are going to have difficulties with that.
Lynne — If it’s cold too, some of the gels, if you carry them with you, they will freeze, then you are trying to chew on it. The Powerbar gels are the most viscous - they stay liquid at colder temps.
Brenda — you can stick them in your pants, which is the trick.
Lynne - Or your sleeve.
Ben - One more thing on the liquid thing. We did a little experiment, When we switched to Nuun originally, before they had the extra calorie, the Nuun Plus, People were saying “Oh my God, there are only eight calories in it” In our experiment we found we are only getting about four ounces in our cups, so even if it’s Gatorade you are getting about 20 calories, So the reality is, unless you are going to stop and take ten cups while you’re there, it’s hard to rely on just that liquid as your energy. Rely on that liquid to be your liquid, and I think that’s Nuun’s concept, by have a liquid with electrolytes you are going to absorb it quickly and realize you calories are coming from your gels or your bananas or cookies.
Andrew — in cross country skiing you are burning more calories than any activity. 600-700 calories an hour. Which is more than if you ran for an hour, easy. It’s super important not to bonk.
QUESTION — This question was about skaters using the classic tracks. Classic skiers definitely get mad.
Andrew — The last few years I’ve skied the classic Birkie. and depending on where you are there may be some fast classic skiers with you. You are skating and looking for the best line and sometimes the classic tracks are your best line. Sometimes the classic tracks are faster than the skate lane. Sometimes when I’m classic skiing I hop out of the track and ski in the skate deck for best line. So really it’s taking a moment to look over your shoulder. Do your best. The Birkie trail is so wide, from that standpoint, the classic skiers on a right hand turn are going to leave and come over. And on the flip side the skaters are going to come to the left on a left hand corner, especially on the downs. The tracks can be faster. Absolutely it’s your right to be in them, as much as the classic skiers have a right to ski on the skate deck. Just make sure you look around. On the up hills one of the things that’s interesting, I don’t think you can win a Birkie on an uphill, but you can certainly lose it when someone steps on your pole or you step on theirs. So, just that concept of be patient a little bit (one of my strengths now) be patient with the group around you - “hey man, we are only going to be here for 20 seconds” It’s okay. We are going to make it up this thing and go. You get the guy who is trying to double pole up through the crowd.
Jan - Did you talk about the fist-fight that happened last year?
Ben — No
AUDIENCE — Most important thing is don’t skate in the classic track.
Jan - there was a fit fight.
Ben - yeah there was. There were two guys. they were going up the hill. A guy behind step on a pole. That guy turned around and said “Mumusdf” and “slkdjfflkjsd” The guy in the front turned around, punched and broke the guy’s nose. And it wasn’t two women either.
QUESTION — I notice there are a lot of different philosophies. Tell me about your taper week.
Jan — Depending on what level — what wave?
QUESTION — Waves 1-3.
Jan - your the coach
Andrew - Lighter hours, So everything is backed down - so maybe I’m skiing 3-4 times that weeks. Depending on what you’ve been doing all winter. I might do a couple pickups during the week. Off day two days before the race. A shakeout ski the day before. Something really short. I’ve been in the car for two and a half hours - I need to get out and feel a little less cooped up. When I was racing - the Wednesday or Thursday were days I wanted to do a really hard skis. Push pretty hard for a short period. But the best thing you can do for taper week is to get plenty of sleep. It’s busy and hectic - it’s best to come in rested.
Jan — I suggest working the wax expo at the Birkie.
Jordan — I take my approach as a tri-athlete first and a skier second. I’ve been training for long distance races and when you think about what taper means, it’s not simply to rest and recover, you should get more rest. It should be a sharpening time, I think. Thats when you get out for a couple skis, make sure the legs are feeling good, make sure the skis are feeling good. Typically do that the day before. Two days out, I like to take that day off. People talk about carb loading, that’s not the day before, you don’t eat tons of food the day before. That’s the week leading up, you start implementing carbs into your diet. You don’t eat more food. You just eat more carbs. You should be recovering but you throw in a couple harder efforts. It just should be lower volume.
Jan — I would like to say something about stress — I am a master at trying to compartmentalize stress. I will say, that I feel the most stress of many people at the start of the Birkie, other than Ben when he’s not racing it. But it’s compartmentalizing it. It’s looking at all the positive things you have and not taking the stress of the Birkie and building it up to the degree that you really do freak out. We have some very good skiers who can’t ski the Birkie. They bring this level of stress up to the point where it paralyzes them. And doesn’t allow them to relax and ski it as they should. So that’s a big part of managing your stress level. You need to feel confident about what you do. The best thing is to get into a ritual. Something that you’ve done prior to other races, you just do it again each time, then you feel comfortable with it.
Jordan — I think too - what you said about relaxing, we can talk about the perfect physiological build up to this race, and then say something happens, you break a ski that week, you can’t get out, you get a replacement the last minute, You’re going to be way stressed out, you would be hitting all those marks, that week. It’s important to try to hit the physiological things, but at the same time you want to come in mentally prepared and relaxed. You don’t want to carry with you. If you miss a workout that week, and you’ve been training for 10-12-14 weeks leading up. That one workout is not an issue.
Lynne — I have a question for Jordan. If you were going to get a massage, when would you do that? I’m going to give myself a treat…
Jordan — Not the day before — you could get it the day before, or chiropractic work, or muscle work — but it better not be aggressive. Because, just like a workout, you have to recover from it. That’s why they tell you to drink lots of water after, because it takes time to recover. I would say three to four days before a race if you are going to get a deep-tissue massage. Because it’s going to help loosen you up, it’s going to help muscles fire at a little higher rate. Three to four days before the race would be ideal.
Jan — I have a question about stress - what’s the biggest catastrophic event that has happened to any of us at the Birkie. Maybe I’ll start with you Brenda.
Brenda — I do remember one of my friends dropping her mittens in the porta - potty. I heard her scream. She had a shitty race start.
Jan — How about you Lynne —
Lynne — I haven’t. Except for picking the wrong skis last year and not having grip or glide. That was painful and I cried across the lake. I did. I cried. Until my girlfriend came from behind me and talked me to the finish. But Drew, my significant other, two years ago, he put everything in his bag and threw it on the truck, with his chip. Then he had to go and try to get his chip.
Jordan — I broke a pole with 20km to go. That was not fun. (so what did you do?) I’m new to skiing (this is my third year). and if I would have practiced skiing with one pole, it may have helped a lot. The Birkie is hilly enough, if you try skiing up those hill with one pole and you are not a skier experience.
Andrew — There are some good one pole drills.
Ben — I have not had a lot of Birkie bad experiences. I’ve been pretty lucky.
Lynne — Have you classiced it?
Ben — I haven’t
Lynne — Well - hello! You’re bound to one of these times.
Jan - I have a whole pile of them - one time a took people out while trying to get my drink. That was really embarrassing. The other time, I tried using one of those clip things to hold the pole — it came off and the pole went flying — you won’t want to follow me.
Brenda — I had the classic skis with the hitchy thing on it (Salomon bindings). when Pilots first came out. I had that come out and stick under my foot. I said, what’s going on? I pulled over, reached down and pulled it off.
Jan — Yes. It’s how you deal with it. Someone while skiing on the lake ran over a GU — that was Kate who did that. She skied over a GU — it exploded and went all over her skis.
AUDIENCE MEMBER — Last year I had a ski break right before the start. There was nothing I could do — so I did a marathon skate the whole race.
Andrew — On some of the shorter races I ended up on a pair of my friend’s warmup skis for a Jr National Qualifier once. I managed to get mine in time. But some of those races end up being the best ones I’ve had — as long as you can make it to the line. If you can get that adrenaline early then you can relax once you get going — I made it!
QUESTION — For the classic race I will usually carry a couple tubes of wax and a cork. Just in case. Is there anything you can recommend I take? Last year was such a disaster.
A scraper and wax remover — For the Norwegian Birkie. But then you carry a backpack anyway.
Andrew — I know last year was my girlfriend’s first ever classic Birkie and I was terrified I was going to mess up her wax. I ended up not racing because I was waxing so many people’s skis — I went to OO to make sure I had an answer. It sounds like we are going to have a Endurance United tent at OO. Last year I ended up blistering skis for 2.5 hours. So — maybe I missed you.
Audience member — I actually stopped at Bodacker.
Ben — FYI — there is a Swix wax station at each stop. Universal Klister, Red and Blue. At most stations they really don’t know what they are doing. Your going to have to do it your self — you can say ‘I have no kick’ and they can try to help you at the aid stations — but it is minimal.
Lynne — From personal experience - from our friend Kate Ellis - don’t carry your tube of wax right in your sports bra.
Andrew — From a different standpoint - I know some people worry about cramping in long races. If you are already carrying something you might want to carry salt tabs. I know that has saved me in races in the past - just pop a couple of those at the aid stations. They don’t have them there — I know that has saved me. What do you carry here?
QUESTION — How important is roller skiing for training?
Lynne — It is so important. You can make leaps and bounds. It’s relatively safe. You can join an adult group. I think it’s easier than skiing - myself. The rollers never fluctuate - they always roll. I am probably a better roller skier than snow skier.
Andrew — In strength training there is the rule of specificity. The closer to the actual movement your training for you can get the more gains you will make toward that movement. So if I’m double poling with real poles, that’s going to get me a lot farther than doing free weights in the gym.
Lynne — the other thing is - there are so many beautiful trails around with no cars, so you will be mostly safe - with pretty safe downhills. Do you run?
Audience — I hate running.
Lynne — I don’t run either - so - with roller skiing you can focus on your upper body. You can use your core so much you can catapult yourself. You can secret train. Don’t tell anyone.
QUESTION — With the Korte starting at OO - any difference in how the waves go out for the Birkie?
Ben — Yes - they will be smaller. The Birkie waves will be about 200 people smaller this year. Wave 4 is actually 300 smaller. I depends on what Korteloppet skiers came out from where. And the Korte waves are much smaller - about 300 each. They will be smaller - you will notice that.
QUESTION — For the Korte - is there a reason for the 20 year old and younger skiers to go out first?
Ben — That’s a good question. Younger kids do have an option if they don’t want to start in the U20 wave. The U20 wave is about 200 - about 150 in the girls and about 200 in the boys. And interestingly enough, if you were to look at the Korte results, last year, do you want to guess at what percent of the U20 finished in the top 100? 87 were under the age of 20 last year. Only 13 were over the age of 20 last year. So, believe it or not, on face value it looks kind of weird, it’s really a fast group of kids. So you won’t have a lot of interaction with a lot of them. Also the trail at the Korteloppet start is very wide then it dumps into the skate trail where it’s about 35 or 40 feet wide. So I don’t think it should be a big issue.
In an ideal world, hopefully, I could speak to a lot of the first wave skiers. Having, in the past, starting in the elite wave, for me, having the Wave 70 skiers, the spirit of 35, and the women, so having about 200 skiers in front, the integrity of the trail is pretty good, typically. Depending on the snow conditions, which changes every year. Normally it’s not until you get to 1,500 or 2,000 skiers that you start to see the degradation happen. Well, depending on the weather. If you are doing the Pre-Birdie this weekend you are going to be pretty happy. So when you go over it and you are 203rd it will be pretty good.
QUESTION — In the same vain - only the opposite end - this is someone who will be in Wave 70 a few years from now. I know it’s nice intentioned but people will catch those skiers - about 90 percent will be skiing classic. People behind them will be coming up.
Ben - It’s a couple things. One, certainly is those people are important to us and what they mean to the sport. And a lot of times - the way I look at it is if you come up on someone you should have better skills then they do and you are going to go right around them. It gets back to the point that people really need to be vociferous on the trail. Just like on a bike trail there is no offense taken when someone says “I’m on your left”. I think that’s really important. The other thing we’re trying to do is - we are in a bit of a fund raising phase right now. We are trying to get a PB 400 which is the big one so we can set four classic tracks - we have enough room for this.
The second part of that actually is extending the classic trail south. And a lot of times it doesn’t mean creating a whole separate trail. If we could add ten feet we could set three or four tracks all the way through. Knowing that Wave 70 is going and more from that group move into classic, we want to be able to provide better classic conditions.
QUESTION — I really appreciate founders when I pass them. (other panelists agree)
Jan — If you want to see Founders stuff - please take a look at Al Hanson’s collection as you leave. He has some wonderful old classic bibs with stamps on them. COMPLETED — I do like that.
QUESTION — The bike culture talks a lot for safety reasons, it’s not part of the ski culture.
Ben — That’s true.
QUESTION — Maybe because it’s colder out but when I let someone know something on the Birkie trail they look at you like you are freaking crazy.
Panelists — They do not!
Others — Track! Track! You don’t hear that anymore — (something about the younger generation) I don’t know if there’s an editorial in the Birkie literature.
Andrew — I think it comes down to the more groups we have teaching and learning. Do you know what is also interesting is that at snowmaking loops at Hyland and Elm Creek where you are forced to ski with 500 skiers, hopefully people will start to learn how to communicate. It’s like the Autobahn - you can live in the left lane. You live in the right lane - if you want to pass you move to left lane. Hopefully you start to learn some of that etiquette. It used to be very prevalent “Track” and they would move.
Audience — Once skating appeared and there were no tracks …
QUESTION — In the back of the line - like Wave 6, how soon before the start should we get there?
Ben — Here’s the thing - it gets back to your anxiety levels. The waves are loading 15 minutes ahead if you want to get in. They are going out every five minutes. There are three pens. You can get in as early as 15 minutes. But some people just want to be there. You get there and there’s thousands of people there and that’s fun. That’s exciting and it’s cold. Where do I sit down. It’s a bit of a catch 22. For me I always want to get there earlier then not. I could go sit in a corner and be quiet and be happy with that. The busing this year should be very quick. So I would get on a bus, me personally, if I knew that I was going to race, I would be on a bus two hours in advance — an hour forty five. Plan on a half hour bus ride. I will be there an hour and a half early. I’m going to walk, I’m going to wait in the porta-potty line. I’m going to take some pictures. There’s going to be wifi at the start this year. You can Tweet. Do selfies. To me it’s back to the anxiety thing. I would much rather get there early. I have friends who want to show up as their pen is loading and that is great - they didn’t have to stand around and get cold. If you can get there at a minimum and hour before your start.
Audience — so we should be able to count on the buses?
Ben — Being very good. It should be very good at those two locations.
Ben — Another note — keep on eye on the website about trail closings and grooming schedules. Just know Birkie Ridge is always open - which is right on Hwy 63 — if you haven’t been there. That’s where all the parking is. That will be groomed when the race course is groomed each night. So it’s a really good place for wax testing. Or a place to ski when they close the course. Also — you will then know how to get there race morning. Ease your nerves a little bit.
Andrew — The day before — that’s where I’ll go to test out skis and get out on the trail.
QUESTION — I was trying to figure out how to warm up for the race. The Birkie is extra challenging because I don’t know where to go …. the morning of the Birkie.
Ben — I’ll answer it then you can talk about physiology. This year you are going to go right by the start line on a bus. The buses load ten at a time. You are going to get off the bus and the runway will be on your left - which is your old start. You are going to walk past 140 porta potties and a bib tent - so if you haven’t gotten your bib yet .. you can take care of it there. Then you will move in to the start area with our new pole barn, trash cans and another big tent. As you walk past the porta potties there’s an actual warm up loop. It was created for the Junior National Qualifier and State Meet this weekend. So there is going to be a two km warm up loop that you can ski on. I imagine it will be pretty busy - it will be one place you can test skis. It is the old Korte trail, you are coming to that aid station and there’s a little loop you can ski on. If you want to be on skis — I think most of the prep will be about being off skis — getting your bag in the truck with a half hour to go - so I can go for a run and I don’t have to worry about throwing my bag in. Then I can jump in the pen five minutes before and be pretty warm.
The new start is a pretty gradual up - but you are at the power line in like 800 meters. Before you had 2km of gentle rolling, now it is pretty much — you are in to them. You are going to want to have a roll of sweat rolling down your back when you start.
QUESTION — Will we be able to test waxes at the start?
Ben — Yes — it will be the same set up as before - you will be able to ski out and back if you are in an early wave. Before the race starts. But once it starts you will not be able to. There will be nine classic tracks on the left - and the skate lanes as you leave. Then it will be 300-400 meters until the classic turns off.
QUESTION — So - is the warmup loop flat or does it have a hill?
Ben — It does have a little rise on it. It’s behind the big red building and I think they’re going to have it go counter clockwise. That will become evident once you get there. It will be a gradual climb up and a hill down. I don’t know how many track will be remaining if you are trying to test kick wax. I would say you want to get there on the earlier side to test it.
QUESTION — Over the last 5-6 years there have been a lot of changes to the Birkie. Really good changes. The bridge, the starting line. What do the next five years look like?
Ben — Good question - From the event standpoint we want to make sure we can continue to do it. So that involves snowmaking. What is the likelihood of making fifty km of snow, probably not great. Verses three - does that help us? No. So - looking at the pluses and minuses of that. Unlike the cities we have to look at how we are going to pay for it. We don’t have 500 high school kids showing up all week long. We might be able to to some of it with camps. That’s a big part of it. Second would be how we can get more people involved in the sport. What are some of the events that you do. Also, trying to integrate it into a World Cup or Super Tour. Bookend one of these events would tie us in with FIS and the World Cup. What that would do as say it doesn’t matter who you are - if you are three years old or an elite athlete or you’re skiing the Korte for the first time. This community as it grows has those tied together. — Those are some of the things we are looking at.
Jan — I will chime in too - I will tell everybody that if we didn’t have snowmaking right now it would be tough. So anything we can do to support the east side with snowmaking. You can email Andrew, you can email me. I just talked with someone from Three Rivers who is looking to add two more km to both Hyland and Elm Creek. So, any information you can go back and tell people that this is awesome, this is great, the better. Because we need to bring more people into the sport, and with roller skiing it’s becoming a year round sport. You are always going to have the fat tire races following ski activities. Anything to bring more people in show people it’s a year around sport to stay fit. The Birkie is part of it. You roller ski. Do yoga and all that stuff. It’s not just a ski race anymore. Mora is a perfect example - of what they are trying to do to keep their event alive.
QUESTION — Will you venture a guess on the future of Telemark?
Ben — It’s pretty much done. When the Lewis family bought it, they bought it as an investment in land. It was $920,000 for 1,000 acres and a lodge at the time. It’s in really in rough shape now - there are two or three groups, on average, that continue to to look at it. And the Lewis family is more than willing to sell it. And eventually there will be something there again, whether it’s a hostel or something - because with the mountain bike trails and the ski trails it’s such a great venue. We’ve even looked at some of the acreage south of the new start line. About 40 acres, because you could make some really nice competition trails. So I think within five years there will be something there again. It won’t be what it looks like right now. Now the biggest hurtle is to knock the thing down. Some people say “Gosh, it would be nice to have a 20 room hotel there.” or something that’s more sustainable. They are trying to crack the nut of getting rid of what’s there. Because that’s a big number. There’s a lot of good energy there.
QUESTION — I have a food question - I find I have to down all the gatorade (cups and cups) And it’s not ever enough — so I think I have to prepare better in advance. For that week. I would like to hear what a couple of you have to say. Also, the morning of the race — I have a bowl of oatmeal before I start the race.
Brenda — I think the week before I eat pretty much normally. The night before I eat something that is easily digestible like salmon and rice and a light salad. And the morning of the race I usually have oatmeal and nuts and raisins. I know I can digest - but well enough a head of time, not right before, or it will just sit in my gut. I usually have a gu before the race even starts.
Lynne — it sounds like your metabolism is extremely fast, so you need to load something like a Perpetum — is that the product that’s almost like a meal that you drink?
Jordan — And make sure you train with it - and we are talking about the Birkie - which doesn’t give you a lot of time but this week if you could practice whatever you are going to do Birkie morning. It it the week before, I talked about carb loading. Just implementing carbs, rice, protein. You are not changing too much. You shouldn’t be. You’ve been training for 12-14 weeks. Carbs should be a little bit in every meal. And that’s what carb loading is. You are not trying to increase caloric intake much. Now - if you’re running low, race morning, they say three hours before is when you eat. Then you don’t risk not getting everything digested, I know a lot of us drink coffee in the morning. Make sure that’s 90 minutes before the start - in case you get a reflux - we all know what that means. We have 160 porta potties -right?
Lynne — When we go down stairs I want to show you a product that you could use during the race.
Jan — I wil share what you shouldn’t do. When the start was a Telemark and I had to poop right before the race and there wasn’t 160 porta potties and I pulled down my pants right in front of the villas and some of them were my customers.
QUESTION — I don’t eat a ton of carbs - I try not to -
Jordan — The week before a race, as long as it’s not a digestive thing. You are filling your fuel tank for the race. That’s not done two days before — that’s done the week before. I would say high glycemic carbs the week before. You are adding a little bit of carbs to each meal. you can get really specific - you should see some of the tri-athletes and cross country skiers. They get right down to the gram of how many carbs they are taking in. Based on the volume they are putting in. I try not to get into that much specificity. But five-six days out start implementing carbs into your diet. The night before the race should be just like any other meal.
Jan gives person asking the question a chocolate - (this may mess up your program)
QUESTION — Jan - I think we need a VIPee — a special pass to get in to the porta potty
QUESTION — So, your favorite carb to add at each meal would be what?
Jordan — Yeah - one more thing. 2-3 days before cut fiber back. For obvious reasons. I know people who’ve had to stop at porta potties during a race. fiber is the same as roughage. If you have issues with constipation think about that.
Ben — For the morning of the race you can have Oatmeal, Pasta, Rice.
Lynne — Baked potatoes — those are good after the Birkie.
Panel — Beer
Jan — We used to have these Texas - Norwegians. There were these Norwegians who lived in Texas and worked for an oil company. They skied once a year (they trained on roller skis in Texas) They came together once a year for the Birkie and would take over a couple of the restaurants downtown and just — they were really fun. That’s the secret — turn it all into fun. It’s so easy to get caught up in details — if you can find some humor. And joy in the fact we can do it. That’s why I wanted Brenda in the panel. I’ve known Brenda for so long. Finishing this race when you are facing cancer and turning the whole thing around is really inspirational. There are stories like that everywhere. It is our duty to encourage people, pass people with respect, and be leaders in how we enjoy this event. Just have fun
That’s how we will end the evening.
Thank you so much for coming.