Skinnyski Race Team Weekend Recap
By Bruce Adelsman
January 14, 2003
For all practical matters, there was just one race on the
team's calendar for the weekend -- The 24 Hours of Telemark
Last year, Brian May, Ben Popp, John Munger and Per Nelson
combined to set a distance record of 490 km (eventually eclipsed
by a seven person Canadian team in March). This year, the
team "bulked up" with the additions of the Nelson
brothers, Dave and Grant. Using a six man rotation, it seemed
entirely possible that the team might recapture the 24 hour
distance record (roughly 517km). But then things never quite
go as planned...
Big Team winners: Grant, Brian,
Dave, Ben, John and Per
I arrived late Saturday night, basically taking a front-row
seat to watch the race unfold over the remaining 12 hours.
Unfortunately, I missed out on some of the excitement earlier
in the day, as Josie Nelson classic skied to the womans 6
hour solo title (and skied over 80km!), with Margie Tilman
skating to a second place finish in the 3 hour solo race.
At midnight, Josie was amazingly still awake and out on the
ski trails cheering the big team on.
I've never attempted a 24 hour endurance event, but a number
of things become obvious from just watching. First, eating
becomes a chore. Most skiers lose their appetite for food
after 10-12 hours. If you forego food, you're going to bonk.
So the cycle becomes ski, eat food and hydrate, sleep/rest.
Second, the human body doesn't like skiing late at night.
Once you get into those early morning hours, your body knows
its suppose to be sleeping. However, when the sunlight starts
to appear on the horizon, the energy levels almost automatically
While I almost expected some human drama, the team performed
like a machine. The guys developed a buddy system for ensuring
the next guy in the queue was awake, and predicting when they
needed to be down at the start area. They never missed a single
exchange, never overslept or had someone skiing extra laps.
And unlike last year, no major illnesses to disrupt the rotation.
In watching it all first hand, I came away with a great appreciation
of the speed and endurance of these guys.
Ultimately, the cold weather and modified course took it's
toll on the teams record attempt. They pressed the record
for quite a while before accepting the realization the goal
was out of reach sometime well after dark.
As with last year's race, there were some untold stories.
Per Nelson picked up a nasty frostbite on his ear during one
of the subzero, late night laps. Peter Hanson turbo boosted
John Munger's skis with a top notch cold weather wax job midway
into the race, and Josie and Margie did double-duty as wax
techs. Both Per and Ben also acted film crew for the first
half of the race (watch for footage later this week).
Sonja Bostrom continued her run at US Nationals last week,
competing in the sprints and marathon distance events, scoring
impressive 22nd and 10th place finishers, respectively.
Race Team Results
January 11-12, 2003 - 24 Hours of Telemark:
1st place Big Team division and most kilometers logged overall: 489km
Brian May, Grant Nelson, David Nelson, Per Nelson, Ben Popp, John Munger
Josie Nelson 6 Hour Solo, 1st female 80km
Margie Tilman 3 Hour Solo, 2nd female 43km
January 9, 12 2003 U.S. Nationals (Rumford, ME):
Sonja Bostrom 1K Sprints 22nd 2:46
30K Freestyle 10th 1:40:51
Team Member Race Reports
Race Report from Josie & David Nelson
Race Report from Per Nelson
Per Nelson skiing his final
laps at 24T
24T: No walk in the Park
It all started Friday as I got out of the lab and office
a tad early (3:40pm) and headed home to pack. About an hour
later Ben and Margie and I were headed to Telemark, skis
waxed, car loaded and I began to think of the dozens of
things that I'd forgotten to bring. Fortunately the essentials:
skis, poles, suit, boots were not among the casualties of
my triage-style packing job. Got pizza and cheesy garlic
bread at Coopes in Hayward (tradition from 2002), and picked
up a dozen bananas, oranges, tortilla chips and salsa, and
other shapes, styles, colors and textures of sugar before
driving to the lodge. Friday night everyone except John
and Diane showed up, so we had a chance to discuss and strategize
the race before a good nights sleep.
Saturday morning we hit the buffet for a very good tasting
breakfast (rationalizing that a good breakfast is especially
important before skiing a 24 hour relay, and rationalizing
the high price ($8) as our little part supporting Telemark
as a regional skiing institution that suffers from the overwhelming
cheapness of the nordic skiing community). John and Diane
showed up right on time and we threw out the strategy that
we hit on Friday night opting for 2 (3k each) lap pulls
to start. The pre-race meeting brought home the conditions
we were under. The temperatures were going to be, despite
the recent trends, very cold. So cold that we were warned
the race might even be suspended overnight if wind chills
got too low.
It didn't take long to realize that cold was going to
be a factor, maybe the factor, as we stood under the stiff
flag during the Star Spangled Banner. It was also immediately
obvious that despite the subtemperate conditions, the festive
atmosphere was going to be far more warm and jovial than
your typical race. Not many tents this year, but the Finn
Sisu 12 hour solo guys had the set-up. Complete with heater,
hay bales, and plenty of cold beverages. On that theme:
it was about 16 hours into the race (when the 24 hour blues
were really hitting me) that Kevin of Team Sports (race
organizer) let me in on a little secret. He said, "you guys
take this way too seriously". I looked at him with "no kidding"
on my tired face as he continued by explaining that the
folks who really enjoy this event are the ones who ski hard
alright, but then get a good meal and some sleep and make
it into a skiing party. 24T is as much for those who want
to go and ski their guts out all night long as those who
want to get all their skiing buddies together for a great
The gun went off with perennial lead off man Ben Popp
on the line for team skinnyski. We noted before the start
that there were some very competitive skiers in the field.
Most notably, the Winona Mogren's and a team of mostly St.
Olaf/Carleton skiing alums including Peter Abraham, Fred
Kueffer, Brent Carlson, and Dave Dow. It was therefore no
surprise that when Ben came back out of the woods he was
in a pack. For the first several hours of the race we were
trading position with Peter's team. Unfortunately we never
really got to working together much, just yo-yo-ing back
and forth as the faster skiers on each team matched and
unmatched. By dark, our 6 man rotation left us much more
rested and well ahead.
We skied 2 lap legs from the start until sometime around
the 10 hour mark. At that point John and my combined lobby
convinced Brian and Ben that it was time to start 3 lap
legs in order to increase our resting time. It was a tough
decision because we knew 3 laps per leg would make equal
or slower overall speeds, however the balancing factor was
survival. We saw Peter Abraham's team fatige rapidly in
the first 6 or so hours running single lap legs and ultimately
back off pace dramatically. In their case it was more difficult
because they had only 4 guys in rotation. It is impossible
to tell if we would have made more distance staying at 2
or even going to 1 lap, but by going to 3s we didn't burn
There was a starry sky and half moon illuminating the
trail when it started getting tough around that 12 hour
mark. It is amazing to say, but it was the resting that
was tough. Lungs and throat burn, race cough, the constant
need to eat, and racing rush prevents good sleep. But the
skiing is great! Zooming through the darkness hearing the
cheers and encouragement from friends, teamates and spectators;
zipping by the bonfires crowed with cheering people remains
not just fun, but really exhilarating.
Then comes the early morning. That last ski before dawn:
the trail was nearly deserted. John and I made a pact to
help each other say no to this sort of excess in the future.
(I think we did so last year as well). The wind had picked
up and suddenly resting in a warm bed wasn't so bad after
all. Exhaustion made sleep possible by this point in the
race and I got my first sleep as the twilight rose on its
gentle gradient to sunrise.
Then awake in the light, and I was a like a horse to the
barn. My last 2 laps of the race: my legs had snap that
hadn't been there for nearly 20 hours. We finished the rotation
and skipped to Brian and Dave to bring us home. They pounded
a lap each with impressive speed, but came up 3 seconds
shy of the buzzer to earn a bonus lap. So it was a 24:00:03
race for us this year, and I'd say that is long enough.