Skinnyski Race Team Weekend Recap
By Bruce Adelsman
February 12, 2003
Some of the biggest races of the season were on tap last
weekend. The Mora Vasaloppet continues to pull in strong numbers,
even in its second year of lake racing. And the Pre-Birkie
remains a favorite test run for the big one two weeks later.
Nearly the full racing team was in action over the weekend.
Grant Nelson in front, Dave coming
The Vasaloppet course once again showed why these folks are
the tops in grooming in difficult conditions. The skate path
was firm and flat, with just the right edging surface, and
beautiful rock solid classic tracks lined the edge.
In a nice sense of justice Mora's home-grown hero Chad Giese
pulled out a repeat of last year's exciting sprint with Marc
Gilbertson to take the 45K freestyle crown. In the womens
long race, Olympian Nina Kemppel won in a sprint, but our
own Sonja Bostrom notched an impressive eigth in the very
competitive womens field. Margie Tilman posted a top twenty
placing as well.
In the shorter freestyle race, John Munger was slugging it
out with a top number of top skiers and finished a solid third
in the final run to the line. Last year it was Per Nelson
losing out in a near photo finish in the short race. Per was
back again this year and still posted a top ten finish, taking
home eighth overall.
Grant, Dave and Josie Nelson along with Jill Troutner all
opted for the double-pole fest of the classic event. Dave
and Grant dueled each other for the seventh place finish,
as Dave used some reserve energy to overtake Grant at the
end. Josie and Jill (in her first action this season) came
in nearly together, posting third and fourth places for the
Over in Wisconsin, Brian May was doing the weekend double-header:
Pre-Birkie on Saturday and North End Classic on Sunday. Brian
skied away from the field and won in spectatular fashion by
more than three minutes in the Pre-Birkie. On Sunday, he may
have paid a little for Saturday's workout. The North End Classic
had some top classical skiers and the pace was a tough one.
Brian still managed to kick out for a fourth place finish.
All in all, a darn good tune-up weekend for the Birkie.
Race Team Results
February 8, 2003 Pre-Birkie
Brian May 1st overall 26K Freestyle
February 9, 2003 Mora Vasaloppet
Dave Nelson 7th male 30K Classical
Grant Nelson 8th male 30K Classical
Josie Nelson 3rd female 30K Classical
Jill Troutner 4th female 30K Classical
John Munger 3rd male 30K Freestyle
Per Nelson 8th male 30K Freestyle
Sonja Bostrom 8th female 45K Freestyle
Margie Tilman 19th female 45K Freestyle
February 9, 2003 North End Classic
Brian May 4th male 23K Classical
Team Member Race Reports
Race Report from Brian May
With the big marathon of the weekend - the Mora Vasaloppet - on a lake, I
decided I'd opt for the Birkie-trail double-header: Saturday's Pre-Birkie
(running from Hayward to 00) and Sunday's North End Classic (using much of
the new Korteloppet course). I like to ski hills and figured the
Birkie-trail offerings would be to my liking.
There are some days - however few and far between - where everything goes
according to plan ... this year's Pre-Birkie was one of those days. After
driving down from Duluth, I was out on Lake Hayward plenty early for the
10am start. I went for an easy ski down the lake, marvelling at how
incredibly fast my skis were. I turned around to realize it wasn't teflon
bases but rather a 30 mph tail-wind that was propelling me down the lake.
Warming up (or at least trying to!), I had time to chat with a few friends
and size up the competition. Many of the area's top citizen racers were
there, but there didn't appear to be any ringers from the factory teams or
universities (a number of NMU guys had certainly spiced up the field last
year). It would be a good race and I figured I would likely be in the
The start was typical - a bit packed on the front line - but nevertheless I
got off to a good start. As the skiers merged into one pace-line, I found
myself skiing beside the main line of skiers with open trail in front of me.
I opened it up a bit and surprisingly moved up to 2nd place without too much
effort. I was thinking that either my skis were rockets or the other guys
were taking it easy and waiting for the hills to really start racing.
Feeling good, I moved to the front and started to push the pace a bit. With
the wind at our backs, I figured there was no penalty for leading and I
might as well stay out of any tangles in the pack.
Heading off the lake, I V2'd along the flats, trying to stay smooth and
relaxed. At the base of the big climb on Duffy's field, I glanced back and
there was a long train behind me. I'm not crazy about skiing in big packs,
so I figured it was time to break things up a bit. I climbed hard but still
in control. As I came over the first rise, I had opened a gap of about 10m,
at the top of the 2nd rise it was maybe 20m. Wow, noone had matched the
move! So, there I was, out in front as we dropped down toward Hwy 77.
Crossing Hwy 77 and the fields beyond, I continued skiing pretty hard, but
tried to maintain a reasonable race pace. I was certainly fired up to be
leading, but I didn't want to fry myself early in the race and pay the price
later on. I glanced back and there were a couple of small packs not far
behind, but noone obviously attacking to reel me in. Back in the woods, I
continued pushing the pace on the uphills, and used the flats and downhills
to relax and recover. I was feeling good and my skis felt fast - it was
going to be a good day!
The course was in really good shape. There were about 1-2 inches of fresh
fluffy snow on top of the groomed trail but it didn't seem to be slowing me
down much. The trail below was reasonably firm, though occasionally a pole
tip would dive through. They'd only had decent snow for about 5 days, so a
little more time and a couple more passes with the groomer and it would be
in great shape. It was such a pleasure to skate on the wide, smooth Birkie
trail after skiing on bumpy, rock-ski conditions in Duluth during the week
before. I was warm, the sun was shining and I was thinking it really was a
marvellous day to be out in the woods for a ski.
Andre Watt and a friend were skiing the course up ahead, so I was pleased to
have some tracks to follow on the downhills. With about 10k to go, I passed
some skiers from Macalaster College (I think). I was very grateful to have
them cheering me on, but hammering up the steep, steep hill they had
carefully chosen nearly drove me under! I occasionally looked back, pleased
to see noone behind me. With 5k to go, the hills were starting to take
their toll and I started counting down the km markers to the finish. Up the
final few hills and across the line in 1:21 and 1st place. Yeehaw! Overall,
a great day for ski racing in northern Wisconsin ... needless to say, I was
super-pleased with the day's result.
North End Classic ...
Another day and another day of ski racing. It was a cold one as I headed
down to Cable with Phil and Kelly Rogers - the car thermometer read
about -5F as we pulled in to Telemark Lodge. At least getting grip wouldn't
be a problem ... or so I thought. I waxed up my classic skis with Toko
Bright Blue, putting some Turquoise over top ... my skis had dynamite grip
and felt decently fast too. After testing out my wax in the Colleseum, I
started to wonder where all the racers were. Oh ... the start is down by
the airport! I was a little frantic as I ran down the road, but ultimately
had plenty of time when I got down there. In fact, the run warmed me up
nicely by the time I got to the start line.
With the entire Birkie start area at our disposal for only 130 racers, the
start was a relaxed affair. Brent Carlson led the charge from the gun and I
settled into the pack behind. Climbing one of the early bumps on the trail,
Bobby Lee jumped out and took over the lead, increasing the pace
dramatically. He led with Doug Stafki, Phil Rogers and myself trailing. I
was struggling to keep up double-poling along the flats and 2k into the race
was starting to look forward to the climbs on the power lines. On the first
climb, I looked up to see Doug surging ahead. Making a decisive move, we
three were simply left in the dust to fight over 2nd place.
On the power lines, I was climbing well but was certainly working to keep
up. We turned onto the Birkie trail and then onto the narrower North End
Ski Club trails. Bobby let me take over the lead and I skied hard, climbing
the hills. Phil started to drop off the back, so I was tempted to dig in
even deeper. The trails were in good shape, double-tracked most of the way.
The trail twisted and turned through the woods, with nice rolling climbs and
descents. With the sun streaming down through the trees, it was a fabulous
morning for a ski. I was working hard and as we crested one of the many
summits, I pulled over to let Bobby back into the lead. He surged forward
and I tried to hang on but was soon dropping off the pace. The hard skiing
was catching up to me ... and so was Phil ... it wasn't long before he was
back on my tails with Bobby disappearing into the distance.
Coming through the aid station at about the 10k mark, I slowed to drink and
Phil opened up a few meters gap. He looked strong, definitely double-poling
better than I was and now climbing better too. The gap grew and soon I was
cruising the Wisconsin woods on my own. My legs were tiring and I was
struggling to maintain good technique. As I came through the next aid
station (17k) and started the long route around the back of Mt. Telemark, I
dug in for the home stretch. My grip was fading and I herring-boned where I
certainly would have strided earlier in the race. With a certain cruelty,
the course took us nearly to the top of Mt. Telemark before dropping down
toward the finish. Glancing back on the climb, I noticed two skiers coming
up behind ... they were closing but time was running out. I pushed hard for
the finish and happily held on for 4th place :-).
The start/finish at Telemark Lodge was definitely a bonus for this event.
My wife Abbi and daughter Rachel had come out to see me finish. With her
swim-suit in hand, Rachel's intentions were abundantly clear. We bid
farewell to Abbi, who was off for her ski, and Rachel and I headed to the
hot-tub and swimming pool. Now, that is a fabulous way to relax after a
good hard ski in the woods!
Race Report from Josie Nelson
I am always inspired by the skiers at the front of big
races like the Vasaloppet. Itís fun to watch the rising
stars, and ever since I started skiing citizen races, I
have admired strong female skiers like Jan Guenther, Joann
Hanowski, and Lynne Cecil-Johnson. Looking back on the past
weekend, however, I realized that some of the people who
make the Vasaloppet so special for me are not necessarily
at the front of the packÖ
My high school coach, ďGus,Ē took me to my first Vasaloppet
when I was 16 years old. He made sure my teammates and I
knew how to wax, what to wear, and how much blueberry soup
to eat. That first race was all it took- he had me hooked
for life. Seeing Gus is still one of the highlights of the
Vasa for me each year, and Iím thankful that he and other
coaches continue to share their love of skiing!
My mom has also been at every Vasa Iíve done, regardless
of how cold and windy it is. She brings a special cowbell
to ring that my Grandpa Peterson found as a boy when he
was plowing their fields in Northern Minnesota. It has such
a distinctive ring that I can tell itís her long before
I can see her. She feeds me, takes my picture, and sends
me on my way with renewed excitement. After cheering for
30 minutes after my race on Sunday, I was almost frozen
solid, so I could hardly believe that my mom and so many
others had been cheering and supporting racers since 9AM!
Smiling Josie Nelson
Our fried Ole surprised us this year. He is an ice-fisherman
whose athletic experience was limited to a handful of citizen
canoe races, until he got his mind set on the Mora Classic
Series. We knew the canoe race wouldnít be a problem, but
we have been thrilled to see him run the half marathon,
bike the 65 mile tour, and ski the 30km classic on old no-waxers
with rat-trap bindings. Hats off to Ole and other new racers
who toughed out this yearís hefty head-wind!
I canít even imagine how many people put their time and
energy into making sure we would have a race. What would
we do without the groomers, the Kranskullas, the soup stop
helpers, and all the behind-the-scenes workers? Many thanks
to the town of Mora!
Itís no wonder I love the VasaloppetÖfrom superstar racers
to dedicated volunteers, itís the people who make this race!