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Why Skiing? V Bjorn’s End of Season Recap 2019

Scott Cummings post-race and post-ski race season. (Photo: courtesy Scott Cummings)

Bjorn’s Race Season in Pictures


As some may remember, I suffered a nasty freak injury but scored a number. That cute cardiologist never returned my texts. so the date never happened. Plenty of fish in the sea. My recovery from my foot surgery on Dec 14th, 2018 and my sprained ankle the summer 2018 derailed my training. Those injuries cost me about 3 months of training. Now, I find it hard it to believe that the 2019 race season is over. This post has me reflecting back about the up and downs of the ski season for me.

Hayward Lions Prairie

The Pre-Birkie race was tough when temps dropped below 0 overnight. The Hayward Lions delayed the start one hour to let it warm up. I carpooled the morning up from the Twin Cities with fellow racer sister and showed up at Hayward VFW at 10:00.

But since the start of the race had been pushed back to one hour to 11:00 am due to below zero temperatures the volunteers left at their normal scheduled time at 9 am.

So no one was there except some locals kicking back some cold ones at 10:00am on a Saturday morning.

Then we raced to try to catch someone at the start thinking that there would be bib pick up there. I tried to speed ahead of the local Fire department trucks with sirens but my sister wisely advised me otherwise.

We got to Birkie Ridge which was a simple 5 min bus drive from the start. We rushed and put on a couple base layers on in the car and hopped on a yellow school bus. The bus took waited for 5 min but seemed to take FOREVER before we left. Once we go there we ran to find some race officials and pick up bibs. Another nice Lions Volunteer told us, you are out of luck but let’s talk to the race management. I saw my race start without me with the sound of a gun, and my uncle was skiing by himself. We had made plans to meet at the start. I yelled to him that said we missed bib pickup and to keep going! He waved and started his 31 Birkie veteran freestyle technique.

Next, we got some small yellow back up Bibs that would at least give us a time! My sister smartly grabbed my bag helped put on my race bib with a safety pin, then I sprinted to the start. For some reason, I thought I would still make the full marathon and start. But I realized most of those people were in the half. Waiting to start at 11:10. I was mad. I started to cuss up a storm. “Saying I drove all the way from the cities to for this  **** and I ******** this one up.”

The guy next me told me to go ahead in the front of the group and get ahead. The announcer stated that there was one min until the gun went off. Next,  I realized that It wasn’t worth pushing through the 10 skier deep to front and starting. The race went off and I had a glimmer of hope of skiing the full 46K hilly marathon might work If I could get into a groove. I tried to pass some skiers and build some momentum but the new snow and cold temps made it slow and squeaky, Then on the uphill most skier were herringboning, which is something I rarely do unless I have to because of skier traffic. I went to the right on the opposite side of the classic tracks only to find puffy snow. My skis sank below the fresh powder. I knew I was wasting energy. I got mad. Then I made a move back inside and almost hit another half marathon skier. I was livid with everything. For not planning this race for bib pickup, at the conditions, at my miscommunications with my sister. I swore out loud again and started to punch down on the trail. That lasted for about 30 seconds.

I got to a  fork in the trail where the 46K continued to the power lines on the Birkie trail or take a small turn and head back on the Classic Trail for only 26K. I asked another aid station volunteer and he said,: it’s a nice day to be outside but I’m volunteering not racing.” I asked another one looking for someone to push in the full. He said, “Lots had registered for the full and turned around at the half because of the conditions.” I looked at the full split then the short split. Then decided that the day had been a wash and I would be even more cranky and even more pissed if I did the full. I did the half and complete the 24K, hilly course with new squeaky snow in 2 hours and 9 min. My sister beat me by 2 min. I walked into the tent near the finish. When a skier who I have never met before recognized me. He said, “wow you were really mad out there what happened?”

I explained the situation of missing bib pick up time and coming up from the cities. That would explain why you went “John Mcenroe on your skies” This one skier had seen me blow up twice. What are the odds of that? I laughed.  At least I got a time today and some hilly and tough course. My sister felt bad so she nicely picked up my burger meal tab at the Sawmill Saloon. Then she smartly drove me home that night so I could rest.

The main lesson here: Remember Your Bib pick up Time!


This year my family and I decided to spend Birke weekend at a hotel in Rice Lake, which was about a 50 min drive to start. Rice Lake Tourism arranged for a coach bus to shuttle racers from the hotel to the start. Sounded like a great plan. So got up at 4:55am on race day and waited for my bus.

The bus never came. My parents could have given me a lift too. But at 6:30 am, some other racers staying at my same hotel offered me a lift to the race start. But this was a race day stress that I did not need.

As most Birkie racers know, the 50K trail received a couple inches of fresh powder the night before the race. Most people assume that “fresh Powdddaaaaaa” is really awesome. But true skiers know it’s nice after a day or so. A day or so after fresh grooming.  

Thus the first half of the course became “Thanksgiving Dinner” nothing but mashed potatoes and gravy on the uphills. So knowing that, I took it easy on the first half of the course. The half marathon, the Kortelopet, takes places the Friday before the race and they did an awesome of flattening the snow on the second half of the course.

Once I got the easier 2nd half of the course with fewer hills and the more firm track, I did nothing. I should have put on the jets and skied hard at L4 or l5. But I was too worried about the hills still and wanted to save some energy for them. That was a mistake. I waited until the last split at Mosquito Brook some 8K left of the course to put on the jets. I flew and passed person after person. That felt great. But it was too little too late. I finished at (4:32:01.8) and my sister at (4:26:23.3) and my uber birchlegger 32nd Birkie Uncle at (4:26:23.3)) Next year. But shoutout to my sister who skied double her age on her bday! (See picture of ice cream cake.)

For most skiers, the ski-racing season ends after the Birkie. I prefer to do a race or two afterward. This year I was pretty fried after 6 straight weeks of racing and opted to take the following weekend off. So no Pepsi Challenge on the Giants Ridge Trails for me this year. I love the cross-country ski trails at Giants ridge but they are hilly. And one could argue, they are harder than the Birkie.

Great Bear Chase

I bought some classic roller skis from a guy off Craigslist in spring. So I was planning on splitting my time classic skiing and skate skiing I had the goal of 6 races, 3 skate, 2 classic races, and 1 skiathlon. The Great Bear Chase provided the opportunity for the skiathlon. The first 25K on the Swedetown Trails in Calumet, MI are classic. But I knew that my result would be below par for me as my classic technique leaves much to be desired. However, the benefit racing like this makes the pressure disappear. I was just in Calumet to get away from my teaching gig and spend time in the snow-piled Upper Peninsula UP.

At the race, I used my skin skies and fell behind the back to 2nd dead last. I classic skied with one guy from Illinois for about 15K and we talked during the race, I crashed once, stopped two water a tree, race first for me, and pulled a muscle on left solder. This happened when my ski pole punched through the about 1-foot snow and twisted my shoulder. After 20K and my shoulder pulled, my double pole technique was painful. This also eliminated my V2 and V2 alternate on the second skate lap.

I entered the exchange zone and switched boots. Most classic in their skate boots to save time on the exchange but I needed comfort not speed. The exchange was a mess; first, they had only 100 participants in the race with a classic track on both sides. The left side odd and the right side were even. My bib number was 82 so I classic double poled in pain down the right side. I polled passed my number 82 into 92. Whoops. Then I got out the track and skied back to my 82. I took off my classic boots then proceeded to grab my skate boots.  Then I found old socks stuck in my skate boot. They were left in my boot since the Birkie two weeks ago. Opps. Once I decided that since I was already at a stop and just finished 2 hours, I took a GU. The Jet Blackberry tasted amazing. I tried to put on my boots but crunchy snow got caught in the bar. That added a couple minutes and dropped my Heart rate to 82 BPM. All in all my exchange time was 6:30. Which was not bad.

The next part of the course was a blast. I was zipping and happy to back to skating. I could feel a blister on the inner left boot starting to form but I knew I could push through the pain and irritation.  Unlike the Birkie, I wanted to leave it all on there. I made sure my heart rate stayed above 160 in zone 4. I know my Garmin could set up an alert but I preferred to have it go the natural way so I would have something to look at during the race. I passed about 10 people on the skate loop. It was a rush because I could see them be a tinning dot in my trail horizon but I kept on V1 and pushing myself. I tried V2 and V2 alternate at least 10 times during the race, hoping I could use those gears like I normally did but it was too painful due to my shoulder pull. I felt like I had tennis elbow, although I’ve never had it. I finished at 4:17:20 with a classic time at (2:17:11) and a Skate time (1:50:43) it would have done two loops of skate, I might have my best marathon of the year and a great birkie wave placement for next year.

But I Loved the skiathlon and adding classic to skiing. Especially for us twin cities skiers stuck on man-made snow of 2-5 km and needing at least 20K for good long day. Switching ski techniques is great mentally and helped me to stay healthy this ski season.

Remember, I work at a school, which is basically a germ factory. I never got a cold and or Flu (had a flu shot), It also helped that I made a conscious efferent to be in bed by 9 each night and sleeping by 10, and deliberating tried to eat right. Right now when I stepped on the scale on 3/10/19 I weighted 177. I weighted that about 3 years ago on that same scale. But officially I weighted that when I was a senior in High School 11 years ago. I didn’t have a result I wanted but as Jessie Diggins put in an earlier blog, racing isn’t always about winning. It’s about having fun. And the Great Bear chase was the cherry on top of the whole race season for me.

For some reason, my sister convinced me to registered for Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon, 13.1 miles. In fact, my dad raced with Gary during their high school Days. My dad went to Denfeld in West Duluth and Gary to Proctor. He doesn’t remember was the event was or day but he remembers that Gary almost lapped him. So it looks athletics is not in my genes. I hate running. But that doesn’t mean I can have the most fun.


Waxing Anxious

FasterSkier’s American Birkebeiner coverage is made possible through the generous support of New Moon Ski & Bike in Hayward, Wisconsin. While you are at the Birkie be sure to visit New Moon Ski & Bike for all your local expertise. The sky was the same color as the snow-covered landscape and the car thermometer read 11 degrees as I drove past a heritage quilt-patterned barn and reflected on my most recent cultural blunder. The women running the coffee shop register looked at me like there was a tentacle budding from my ear when I ordered an oak milk latte.   As I walked out of the coffee shop with my consolation Americano, I glanced at a passing vehicle. The license plate read “Wisconsin – America’s Dairyland.”   Traveling north on Wisconsin State Highway 63, I considered the common typecasting associated with this region. Stereotype (noun):  Widely held image of a person, place,…

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