Interview: Marty Baumann
By Mark Parman
April 2, 2001
| The following article has been submitted
for publication, in part or whole, for the Silent
Sports May Issue. Thanks to Greg Marr and Mark Parman
for permission to publish the piece online. Please note
the interview was conducted in March, before Baumann's
disqualification. -- Ed.
Marty Baumann, 41, finished the 2001 American Birkebeiner
in two hours, 46 minutes and some change, placing 31st overall
and 2nd in his age group. That, in and of itself, isn’t remarkable.
What is, though, is the way he did so: Coming out of the
fifth wave, skiing the entire race by himself without the
pacing or draft of a pack, through deep snow and sometimes
near blizzard conditions, passing approximately 2000 slower
skiers on his way to the finish line in Hayward. Even more
remarkable is his meteoric rise from nearly last place in
1998 to world class status in 2001.
In ’98, Marty, then of Carpentersville, IL, finished the
El Nino Birkie, shortened to 23 km, in three hours and 57
minutes, good for 3568th place out of 3584 skiers. Skiing
a 10:20 minutes per kilometer (mpk) pace on an icy, fast track,
Marty finished ahead of just 16 other skiers. Carl Swenson
won that year in a time of 50:11 at a 2:11 mpk pace.
The next year, Marty, now of Marysville, WA, a suburb of
Seattle, skied out of the 10th wave and crossed the line in
2438th place, taking 4 hours and 13 minutes. That year he
skied a 4:52 mpk pace. This put him in the fifth wave, setting
up his remarkable finish this past February.
"I started skiing in 1991. We’d go up to Door County to
the Griffith Inn. We skied at Peninsula and Newport [state
parks]," said Baumann, who was born and raised in northern
Illinois. Baumann did most of his skiing at that time with
his cousin Jim Bychowski, a Birkie skier from Winnetka, IL.
In ’94 Baumann, a horticulturist, began skiing the Birkie.
Until last year, Marty was a run-of-the-mill Birkie skier,
and his previous best finish in a ski race was 12th last year
at the Whistler Cup in British Columbia. He credits several
factors for his success. "I had major reconstructive surgery
on my foot, so I could stay in training all year round." This
foot "works better than it ever has." He also worked out in
Gold’s Gym, lifting weights.
More perhaps than any other factor, Marty felt his recent
divorce provided the time and motivation he needed to reach
the elite level. "That’s all I would do. Work and ski."
"I started skiing at altitude in October, and my skiing
stepped up about three notches." Marty spent nearly every
weekend of the winter training in either Washington or British
Columbia, logging kilometers at Snoqualmie, Crystal Mountain,
Stevens Pass, Mt. Baker and Whistler. He also competed in
a couple of local races, what he described as "sprints," shorter
distances of 10 or 20 kilometers.
Since the Seattle area has a temperate climate and receives
little snow, he spent the work week the bulk of his time
through the winter dryland training, and snow skied the
weekends. During the week, he rollerskied every other day.
Baumann averaged 70 to 80 kilometers per week, combining both
his snow skiing and rollerskiing.
"One day I worked out in the gym, the other I rollerskied.
And then the Stairmaster. I would spend two to three hours
on the Stairmaster. I would take an aggressive pace."
Marty worked on his technique. "I changed to V-2. I started
skiing without poles. I met Nate [sic] Brown and worked with
Considering all aspects of the sport, Marty looked at all
the little important details, like equipment and diet. "I
really immersed myself in skiing." He took a part-time job
at REI, so he could get some top quality skis. "I weighed
192 the morning of the race," claimed Baumann. After stepping
off the scale, he knew he would have a good race.
The conditions of the 2001 Birkie, Baumann is quick to point
out, favored him immensely since he likes to ski in deep snow.
"I’m a big man [6’2"]. I was getting better glide than everyone
else, getting eight to ten inches every stride." He always
travels with two pair of skis, and skied his Madshus, the
stiffer pair, switching waxes the night before the race. "I
switched wax at the last moment. I spent about two hours waxing."
Parking in Cable and riding the bus in to Telemark, he got
to the start area "literally two minutes before the start
and went through the little gate at the side. They [gate guards]
let me in the front right away."
When the cannon fired, he immediately skied off the front
of the Fifth Wave. "I passed most of the Fourth Wave before
the nine kilometer marker. I passed about 900 people before
00. I had such long glide. It was just perfect for me."
Baumann had few problems passing nearly 1000 skiers in the
first hilly half of the race, even though conditions dictated
that he skied in the deepest snow out of the track skied in
through the course of the race. He "pulled in his poles" to
get around a few skiers at a bottleneck on the "Seeley Firetower
"I was pretty focused pretty aggressive. After 00, there
were a couple of kids I skied with. I think one was number
736. He had spikey hair. We were back and forth the last 20
kilometers. We were both passing people regularly at that
point, until he dropped me on the lake and finished ahead
of me by two minutes or so."
Baumann followed the spikey-haired kid into town, and the
rest is history. While every other skier finished at least
a half an hour slower than their previous best, Baumann smashed
his by an hour and a half in some of the worst Birkie conditions
Marty hopes to ski next year’s race between 2:40 and 2:50.
He admits he’s not a hard track skier due to his large size
and doesn’t feel he can ski much faster, even in better conditions.
He actually prefers the deep snow.
He would also like to use his high Birkie finish to get
elite or first wave starts at the "Vasaloppet in Traverse
City and the Pepsi Vasaloppet in Minnesota." Baumann isn’t
looking for a ski or wax sponsor. "I do it strictly for myself."
But perhaps a major ski manufacturer or the national team
should pay attention after his performance.
When asked about the allegations of cheating, Baumann admitted
that he’d had a few conversations with the Birkie office,
which was concerned about his low profile in the ski community
and his lack of results. "What reason would I have to do that
[cheat]? Why would I fly all that way there to do that? How
do you cheat in a race like that?"