Skinnyski Race Team Weekend Recap
By Bruce Adelsman
January 21, 2003
Hard to believe, it's late January and the first ski marathon
of the year has finally been held. With the numerous cancellations
this season, it was surprising to see that there was still
a huge turnout for the Pepsi Challenge at Giants Ridge in
Biwabik. Even sub-zero windchills and some recent (slow) snowfall
didn't seem to dampen the enthusiasm of the skiers.
Piotr Bednarski with Dave and
Grant Nelson right behind
Before the start of the race, I was positive the classic
skiers were the smart ones this day. I had been out skating
on the trails earlier, and glide was at a premium. However,
as the race unfolded, the skaters seemed to have the advantage,
especially on some of the ungroomed segments of the course.
In the end, I can't really recall seeing anyone finishing
"fresh as a daisy", but most were happy to have
finally logged their first big race.
Josie Nelson had yet another spectacular classic race, not
only winning the womens 48K classical race by a large margin,
but logging a time that would have placed her in the top 15
of the mens event! Grant and Dave Nelson hammered with the
lead 48K classical pack before finally dropping off from the
Classic King, Michael Myers, and a Norwegian from Illinois.
Grant and Dave came in together, taking third and fourth overall.
Meanwhile, John Munger was on his own, almost literally, skiing
from wave two of the 48K freestyle race. Munger, whose training
is competing for time with his duties as City
of Lakes Loppet director, still managed to pull out a
top 15 placing.
While Jill Troutner hasn't had many opportunities to race
this season, she was in the action last weekend taking on
race director duties at the Rainbow Rendezvous. The short-notice
race showcased the numerous trail improvements Rainbow
Resort has made in recent years, and opened the eyes of
many skiers who competed that day (see results and photos
in the Results
Race Team Results
January 18, 2003 Pepsi Challenge
Josie Nelson 1st female 48K Classical
Grant Nelson 3rd male 48K Classical
Dave Nelson 4th male 48K Classical
John Munger 15th male 48K Freestyle
Team Member Race Reports
Race Report from Grant Nelson
Every year I have wanted to do the Pepsi Challenge at
Giants Ridge in Biwabik, but it is always during the
same weekend as my favorite classic race, the Seeley Hills
Classic. Even though I was disappointed that Seeley was
postponed because of poor snow conditions, this was my opportunity
to ski the Pepsi Challenge.
Saturday morning, we awoke to a fresh inch of new snow,
temperatures around zero and a wicked wind. The classical
race started thirty minutes before the skate race at 9:30
AM. I had a number of goals before the race. I wanted to
beat the skaters to the finish, challenge my friend Mike
Myers to the finish, feel strong throughout and have a good
Cold and blustery start line
for the classic wave of the Pepsi Challenge
Even though it was cold and there was a strong wind,
once we got in the woods, skiing was quite nice. Portions
of the trail were freshly groomed and other sections had
one inch of fresh, virgin, absolutely gorgeous, incredibly
slow powder snow. The course consisted of two unique 23km
laps and used just about all of the incredible Giants Ridge
Michael Myers, Grant Nelson,
and Egil Nilsen
During the majority of the first lap, I unsuccessfully
tried a number of times to break away from the big lead
pack only to be swallowed up shortly after. As we entered
the stadium with about 12km to go, Mike Myers and I took
off up the hill and finally broke the pack for good.
As Mike turned up the steep ungroomed Cedar trail, something
didnt seem right. I still thought I was feeling OK.
I wasnt breathing that hard, but my legs just werent
responding. As Mike started to pull ahead, I looked back
and saw an unfamiliar face. It was the guy who had the older
skis, poles and suit, Egil Nilsen. Even though my tempo
was about the same as his, my stride was so pathetically
short that he glided by me like I was standing still. Who
was this guy? (We got to know Egil much better at the awards
banquet that evening. He was a super nice guy from Norway
who has raced and skied there on a very elite level. He
didnt want to take his good ski gear on the airplane.)
I finally reached the top of the Cedar hill and concluded
that my fuel tank was indeed on empty and I was hurting.
As I turned the corner onto the Summit trail, I heard a
skier behind me and assumed another classic skier had caught
me. It turned out that the first skater, Corey Wubbels had
caught me and gracefully and powerfully glided past.(Another
unsuccessful goal) As I looked back, my brother Dave was
closing the gap, but thankfully not as fast as Corey or
Egil. Rather than blow by me, he slowed a little and helped
me get a second wind. As we skied into the finish together,
I didnt have to plot out my sprint at the end.
We were both so exhausted that we matched up our skis
and glided into the finish. According to the official time,
I slipped .3 seconds ahead of Dave to capture third place.
After recovering with 3 bowls of pea soup, 6 orange slices,
2 bananas, 4 donuts, 6 glasses of energy drink, 2 glasses
of apple cider, 2 cups of chocolates and an energy bar,
I started feeling pretty good. The awards banquet had delicious
pasties, nice awards, live music, lots of door prizes, great
volunteers and a lot of fun skiers to enjoy it with. Well,
I didnt beat the skaters, didnt challenge Mike
for the finish, didnt feel strong throughout, but
I sure did have a good time!
Race Report from John Munger
I think when I was asked to join the Skinnyski.com
team, I was chosen for my ability to write more of a middle-of-the-pack
type perspective than my fast Skinnyski peers. So far this
year, I have not disappointed . . .
This year's Pepsi race started with a surprise or two
for me. First, as my wife, Diana, and I sat eating breakfast
in the Lodge at Giant's Ridge we started talking to this
snowboarding family that had no clue what cross country
skiing is about. "Now do all those skiers start out
together?" they asked. Being the expert (at least in
my own mind), I started to explain that the classical and
skating races started separately, but within those categories
everyone started together. Diana interrupted - "actually,
the skating race has waves . . ."
I was suddenly alarmed. Diana had registered both of
us the night before while I waited in the car with our daughter
Ellie (who you might remember as the bad little girl mentioned
in my previous report).
"There are waves?" I asked, "which wave am
"I don't know," Diana responded, "I told
them you would finish in three hours."
. . . So second wave it was for me. I consoled myself
that I had only been planning to train anyway - the only
reason to do the race was to get a little non-hamster wheel
skiing in. Plus, I said to myself, I can go off the front
and ski by myself for a while (after a few weeks on the
skinnyski team you can convince even yourself that you are
a good skier).
Sure enough, when the gun for my wave went off I quickly
went to the front of the wave - "I'll show these guys,"
I thought. Sure enough, though, going up the first hill
was my undoing. First, one guy and then another went past
me (boy, do I need to start doing a bit of training). I
stuck with the second guy and the top of the hill was the
demise of the first guy (someone forgot to tell him that
the race was 46 kilometers, not .46 miles). As it turned
out, the second guy was Dan from Minneapolis - a pretty
darn nice person. He and I skied together off and on for
the entire first loop.
It is interesting to ski with new folks. Dan was a pretty
good skier, but he clearly lacked the aggressiveness you
generally see among the leaders in the race. As we began
to catch skiers from the first wave, Dan would ski up behind
and wait until a huge opening developed. I soon became frustrated
with this approach and began coaching him: "tell them
'on the left,' tell them to move over - just go by . . ."
But as we went along, things only became worse - it always
gives you a sinking feeling to see a line of bright spandex
as far off as you can see. Then the trail narrowed to six
to eight feet wide. I decided this was no time for drafting
off of the still-to-polite Dan. I went around him and began
double-poling past folks whenever I could.
One of the nice aspects of my race was seeing lots of
skiers. Everyone seemed to be having a good time. Pretty
much all of us were having the best day of skiing of the
year so far. It was a bit cold (especially in the stadium
area), but it was sunny with plenty of fresh snow. On that
note I must comment on Mr. Bruce - Behind-the-Scenes - Adelsman.
Before the race I saw him for a minute and commented on
the temperature and the fresh snow (something to the tune
of "it's so slow and cold and windy"). Bruce's
response: "it's getting faster and the wind is supposed
to die down." That was reassuring to me as Bruce always
knows the low-down on such things. It was only as I battled
40 mile per hour winds through cold slow snow at the end
of the race that I realized Bruce had made up a fantasy
weather report just to make me feel good. Thanks Bruce.
Anyway, back to the race. As I went along on the first
lap I became happier with my second wave start and my relatively
reasonable pacing. I realized that I was actually going
to be able to enjoy the second lap - that is, if I ate enough
at the end of the first lap. My plan was to eat my Enervit
gel pack on the long downhill at the end of the lap. As
I started my descent I came up beside Bill Baldus. "How's
it going, Bill?" I asked as I skied by.
"I'm already hurting," he responded.
"I'm just about to eat my gel pack. Do you want
some?", I asked as I struggled to pull the gel from
the folds of my uniform.
In the tradition of all really bonked skiers, Bill responded
with a grunt of affirmation. I opened the gel, took a little
for myself and passed it to Bill, who obviously needed it
more than me.
But after finishing my descent, skiing through the lap
and starting out on the Silver Trail I began to re-think
my generosity. I was getting seriously hungry and realized
that the food stops, while good for liquid, really had no
solids to speak of. On top of that, I began to wonder whether
Bill was doing the 23 kilometer or 46 kilometer event. If
he was doing the 23 k race, he only had about 3 kilometers
to go when I gave him the gel - barely enough time to even
digest the gel before he arrived at Pea Soup Central. This
became an even more important question when I was unable
to get anything at the next feed station . . .
John Munger finishing the 48K
Fortunately, I finally found the little white capsules
I had hidden in my sleeve as I passed Lynn Cecil Johnson.
I was not quite certain what these capsules were, but they
were in the race packet and the little adage on the packaging
talked about winning the race after taking a pill. I shoved
a few in my mouth and Lynn asked what I was eating. "I
don't know," I responded, "I found these things
in the race packet - do you know if you are supposed to
swallow the capsules themselves?" Lynn didn't answer
and I decided that swallowing the capsules whole would be
a mistake. After chewing away for a minute, the capsules
opened . . . and yuck - the capsules were filled with what
tasted like pure salt - no wonder they were in capsule form!
My next problem was water. I had just passed an aid
station so I knew there was no water to be had for a while.
Fortunately, I saw Pete Moran holding a bunch of water bottles.
As I approached, I tried to ask for a feed, but with all
the salt I managed only a grunt (similar to Bill's request
for a gel). By the time I managed to say anything articulate
it was too late . . . Eventually the next feed station came
and the salt episode was forgotten.
The rest of the second lap was uneventful for me. I
began to pass more people I knew - most of them in various
shades of disrepair. Feeling good myself, it was fun to
chat away as I passed them. By the time I reached the wind-tunnel
at the end I was getting tired but I was almost done. When
I saw Josie finishing her classic race I tried to return
her incredible cheering from 1 a.m. at the 24 Hours Race
- but there is no re-paying someone willing to cheer so
boisterously at 1 a.m. in sub-zero temperatures.
Anyway, that finished my day. The nice thing about skiing
a negative-split type race is that you are raring to go
for the next one . . . As a postscript, I guess Bill did
do the 23 k - he is in some serious gel-debt . . .