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Skinnyski Race Team Weekend Recap

By Bruce Adelsman
February 18, 2003

After the cancellation of the Minnesota Finlandia, last weekend had more an air of low-key racing as most skiers did their final racing before the Birkie. Dave Nelson and Jill Troutner joined the big metro crowd for the 10K Snowflake race in Osseo, MN. Nearly 200 top metro and national skiers competed in this fun romp around the Elm Creek trail system. Meanwhile, Brian May and Grant Nelson were putting in a short race at the Brule River Timber Cruise in NW Wisconsin. All of them had some great final tune-ups.

Wave 2 heading out at the Snowflake Race

Grant Nelson has provided a race summary on the new Timber Cruise race, and in a depature from the normal race summaries, Jay Richards, Brian May and Grant Nelson have sent in some helpful insights on their final Birkie preparations.


Race Team Results

February 15, 2003  Brule River Timber Cruise
  Brian May        1st overall  16K Freestyle
  Grant Nelson     2nd overall  16K Freestyle

February 15, 2003  Snowflake Race
  Jill Troutner     5th female  10K Freestyle
  Dave Nelson      14th male    10K Freestyle

Team Member Race Reports

Race Report from Grant Nelson

    During these last few snowless winters, choosing the right race to do each weekend has become one of my most mentally draining components of ski racing. As I have mentioned in earlier reviews it is imperative to stay flexible when considering ski races. Obviously, it isn’t always possible to be flexible especially when considering lodging, travel considerations and even the dilemma, “To pre-register or not to pre-register?” However, this last weekend I truly was flexible and due to the early cancellation of the Finlandia, I figured I had plenty of time to make an easy race decision.

    As I searched through the skinnyski race calendar, my obvious backup to the Finlandia was the new Timber Cruise race at Brule, WI. They had nice fresh snow, great trails, were close to Duluth and I knew a number of my friends were planning on attending. There was even a good choice selection of race lengths with both skate and classic races. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a nice long classic race.

    Ideally, at the end of the year I like to have a pretty even distribution between skate and classic races. Even though technically, I had skied an equal number of skate and classic races this year, I tried to convince myself that last weekend’s Vasaloppet should actually have fallen into the category of “Painful double pole races,” instead of a true classic race. When I heard there was a 30km classic race on the beautiful trails at Lappe in Thunder Bay, I was definitely intrigued.

    My Lappe plans fizzled out on Thursday when my body started to give me hints that sickness might be coming my way. With the Birkie only a week away, I certainly didn’t want to race myself into a miserable cold. That’s when I decided I was going to be a “founder” of the new Timber Cruise race, but I still hadn’t decided which race to do. Generally, I’m a pretty strong believer in the MKFYB plan (More K for Your Buck) I felt quite guilty signing up for the short 15km skate race, but I justified that it would be easier on my body and probably better Birkie training.

    I felt great as my good friends Matt and Carrie Ryan and myself pulled up at the Afterhours ski trail at Brule, WI. Even though it was cloudy and mild in Duluth, Brule was clear and crisp with a temperature near 0F. The classic race took off at 10:00AM, followed by the 30km skate and then the 15km skate. Even though the turnout wasn’t huge, the competition was good in both of the skate races. As we took off, the race quickly turned into a four person pack race consisting of Bob Peterson and Scott Chapin from Riverbrook and fellow skinnyskier Brian May and myself. Even though there was a few thin areas, the trail was in very good condition due largely to quality grooming and trail maintenance.

    For the first 10km all four of us stuck together in a nice tight pack having a fun time weaving around the 30km skiers. The trail was very enjoyable with some nice gradual ups and downs along with a few technical corners and exciting downhills. At about 10km Bob spun out on a tricky corner and took Scott out with him. I managed to weave around the pile up and latched onto Brian. I decided that this was a pretty good spot to push it a little so I cranked up a couple of hills and just about drove myself into the ground. With 2km to go, Brian powered up the final large up hill and took the lead for good. I was quite happy with my 2nd place performance. Bruce Bauer and Phil Rogers were one and two in the men’s long skate and Kelly Rogers won the women’s long skate. We enjoyed a great post race feed at the Brule Town Hall with some neat handmade awards and good door prizes.


This week we also made a call on the team members to provide some insight into their Birkie preparations with an emphasis on nutrition...

Comments from Jay Richards

    Pre-Race meals...

    The last four times I have done the Birkie, I have eaten at the "Taste of Saigon" restaurant in Canal Park in Duluth the night before. Not the normal pre-race meal for me but I have to stick with tradition as a stop at this joint seems to do the trick. Maybe it is the msg or extra tablespoon of peanut oil. The key thing I have found for having good energy stories for the "big race" is to begin consuming large amounts of carbs the week of the race with a nice balance of protein and "good" fats. If one is tapering for the event, generally the training loads are lighter and the calorie consumption should be a bit lower to avoid putting on extra pounds. Water consumption is key as well the 3-4 days before. Trips to the bathroom should be clear. A light carb snack before bed seems to be good to top of the glycogen stores. The morning of meal is lighter then I would typically consume in the summer for mountain bike racing. However for the Birkie, I do like to eat a bowl of home made seven grain hot cereal with some whole-wheat bread with peanut butter around 3-4 hours before the event. About 1.5hrs before race time, I like to consume a bar and then do a couple of gels 1 hour then 30 minutes before the canon sounds. Taking fluids and gels early and throughout the race is important to avoid "seeing stars".

    Good luck!!

Comments from Brian May

    Birkie Preparations ...

    With 4 days to go, all focus is on the Birkie. Today was my last significant workout before the big race - about 1 1/2 hours, mostly easy but with a few faster sections to get all systems up and running. The next few days will see lots of rest with a couple of easy skis (< 1 hour). Again, I will do a few fast pick-ups (30 seconds - 1 minute) to remind my body that going fast is on the agenda come Saturday morning.

    Food preparation/planning is invariably a key part of getting ready for race day. In the coming days, my focus will be on carbohydrates, while keeping an eye on fat intake (no trips to McDonald's!). Friday night will see a typical pasta meal. Nothing particularly special race morning ... a glass of orange juice, bowl of cheerios, granola bar, and a cup of coffee for the road down to Cable. However, I will make an effort to polish off that breakfast 3 hours before race time ... which means an early morning wake-up call!

    When the race gets going, keeping the energy stores up is a challenge in itself. For long races, which the Birkie certainly qualifies, I carry a bottle of sports drink. Drinking from glasses at the aid stations is a challenge (I normally end up with more down my front than in my mouth), so I find having my own bottle is an easy way to ensure I get enough to drink. The bottle normally gets me through the first half ... with refreshments from the aid stations to the finish. For a cold morning (which is expected), to limit freezing potential it is a good idea to carry the bottle upside down and to drink early and often - there's no point carrying a frozen water bottle 50km! Planning race feeds can be an important strategy when trying to maximize speed and avoid dropping off the pack. Long gradual downhills are the best places to swig from a bottle. For example, early in the Birkie, downhills in the 7-10k stretch offer a few key opportunities to rehydrate after the long early climbs and before slugging it up to the "high point".

    I don't limit consumption to liquid however - energy gels are a great way to avoid that end-of-race bonk. I am a real believer ... my record is 14 gels in one race! For the Birkie, I will staple two Enervit gels to my waist belt to be consumed at about the 1/3 and 2/3 points in the race. Energy gels can be strong on flavour - it is a good idea to try out any planned energy gel before getting out on the course. It's also wise to ensure anything else you are planning to carry will be edible at the cold temperatures expected ... Power Bars for example are horrendously difficult to consume when frozen.

    With cold weather in the forecast, it's a good idea to know how any food/drink you will be carrying in the Birkie will react to cold. With that in mind, I tossed 3 different energy gels (lemon-flavored Enervit, vanilla-bean Gu, strawberry-banana Power Gel) into the freezer overnight. The differences were remarkable. The Enervit gel came out as it went in, fluid. The Gu was definitely a little thicker, like a sludge. The Power Gel was solid, literally. The Enervit gel is clearly the ticket here, the Gu would be fine, IMHO Power Gel is not something you want out on the trail come Saturday.

    Last but not least ... have fun and good luck!

Comments from Grant Nelson

    Race Day Breakfast...

    My preferred race morning breakfast is oatmeal. My brother Dave and I used to have an oatmeal competition Birkie morning. Typically, we would make about twice as much oatmeal as we normally consumed. Once I read an article studying world cup athletes which found a direct correlation between performance and the amount of food consumed for their breakfast. Both of us took that study a little overboard. Before we started eating, we would compare each others heaping bowl to our own and then the race would begin.

    I had a pretty good winning streak going when we started collecting our own data. That's when we realized that the bloated and sluggish feeling we felt for the first part of the race every year might have something to do with our oatmeal competition. We still eat oatmeal every race morning, but we don't race or consume double the quantity anymore.



The 2002-2003 Skinnyski.com Race Team is presented by Enervit America. Enervit produces top quality food supplements for sports and active life. Other sponsors include Toko/Yoko and Rudy Project.

Brian May is based out of Finn Sisu. Grant Nelson and Dave Nelson are based out of Hoigaard's and FastWax.

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