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Skinnyski Race Team Weekend Recap

By Bruce Adelsman
March 5, 2003

March is here and snow is still on the ground -- yes, there are still races going on.

Grant, David and Josie Nelson all competed in the River View Loppet on the After Hours trail system in Brule, Wisconsin. Josie continued her strong season with a second place finish in the womens 24K freestyle race. Grant and David finished ninth and tenth, respectively, in the mens event.

John Munger crossed the border and participated in the Sibley Ski Tour, a very popular race held at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park north of Thunder Bay, Canada. John notched a very solid fifth place finish in the big marathon race. (You can read John's full race weekend recap below.)


Race Team Results

March 1, 2003  River View Loppet
  Josie Nelson     2nd female   24K Freestyle
  Grant Nelson     9th male     24K Freestyle
  David Nelson    10th male     24K Freestyle

March 1, 2003  Sibley Ski Tour
  John Munger      5th male     50K Freestyle

Team Member Race Reports

Race Report from John Munger

    It is just a hop, skip and a jump to Thunder Bay . . . and then another hour to the race site. But it was all worth it. After all, we have not seen that much snow in Minneapolis for a few years now. The combination of plenty of snow, good grooming, a nice course, and the Hoito - a small Finnish restaurant in the basement of a shrine of some sort in Thunder Bay's "Little Finland" - made the trip well worth it.

    Of course, it did not hurt that my Dad - now Grandpa - lives in Duluth and "volunteered" to take our daughter Ellie on Friday night while Diana and I went to do the race. This was to be a major test for Grandpa because Grandma is in California visiting relatives. While we had some worries about Grandpa's capabilities (Does he know how to change a diaper? Does he even know what a diaper is? Can he figure out how to use today's ever-more-complicated car-seats?) and Ellie's behavior (Would she go to sleep without screaming for hours? Would she tell Grandpa about being dragged around the streets of Hayward with boards attached to her feet in pursuit of Dad's lost glory?), once we were out of sound-range, it was as if - I mean, we missed her the whole time . . .

    Getting back to the "Tour," we awoke in Thunder Bay on Saturday morning refreshed and ready to go - although, I must say, I do not understand how Thunder Bay managed to sneak into the Eastern Time Zone. I would not care except that a relaxing 10 a.m. start turned out to be 9 a.m. according to our Midwestern watches. Worse, with an hour drive from Thunder Bay to Sleeping Giant Park we might as well have saved our money on the hotel . . .

    Fortunately, continental breakfast with a newspaper provided an opportunity to begin the day slowly without the pressures of the race. A bowl of some sugar cereal (there is no guilt in eating Frosted Flakes when someone else chose it) with unlabeled but undoubtedly whole milk (again no guilt - but boy is whole milk good - you can't deny it!) - this was turning out to be a good start to the day. To top it off, the Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal had an article about the favorites in the race: "Who's going to win the Sibley Ski Tour?" Bernie Lacourcie, the perennial favorite, was going to be skiing, some guy named Niskanen or Haakinen or something, who came in second in the 50 kilometer race at Canadian Nationals would be challenging, etc. . . .

    And then there it was - the end to my relaxing breakfast! A comment from the Ski Tour Race Director right in the middle of the article - "I know of one American coming. John Munger is coming all the way from the Twin Cities. I don't think he's coming up to tour - he's coming up to win!" My stomach went queasy. The once sweet and creamy cereal seemed sour and thin. In the old days I wore a non-descript gray uniform just to avoid any attention. Now - because of the Wizard-of-Oz-like guy running all those levers and cables behind the scenes at SkinnySki - I was not only getting unwanted attention, but I felt downright pressured. After the Race Director's comment it would be embarrassing if I did not at least make a good showing. I gave Diana the article to read - she just laughed and assured me that she believed I could beat Bernie. I told her that although I have skied in numerous races with Bernie over the years, he does not even know who I am - just one of the seething masses who has had the opportunity to watch his butt for a few strides at the start of the race.

    After concluding that I had left my old gray uniform back in Minneapolis, I resigned myself to the embarrassment that was sure to come. I could almost hear the whispers:
       "there's that John Munger - he came here to win - what a joke . . ."
    "Those SkinnySki people think they are such hot stuff . . . talking themselves up in the papers and all . . ."
    It was more than my try-to-be-low-key Midwestern roots could bear.

    But enough whining - isn't this supposed to be a race recap?

    The start of the Sibley Race is not its best feature. Everyone gathers - some 700 people - on one of the normal trails, about 12 feet wide and complete with trees and bushes on either side. While I did the Tour once before, it was a low-snow year and I thought in "normal" years the race would start in some other more appropriate location. So being the dummy that I am, I took a nice little warm-up before the race and sauntered over to the start area with about 10 minutes to go. When I saw that approximately 699 people were already gathered and ready for the gun to go off, my heart sank. Fortunately, the people in Thunder Bay seem a bit nicer in the minutes before the race than the "usuals" you might find at the start of a Twin Cities race. I managed to get up to the second row, and, after they moved all of us ten feet forward, found myself in the first row. Even now I believe that the guy who had been in front of me saw my SkinnySki uniform and decided he did not want to be in front of someone who was "not here to tour." He probably thought I was going to bowl him over the second the gun went off.

    Well, eventually the gun did go off and the start turned out to be uneventful. I saw Bruce Bauer - and let him go by me right off the bat. It was easy to identify the other true contenders - Bernie had bib number 1, Jay Carlson went to the front and the guy I identified in my mind as the "Canadian Nationals Number 2 Guy" looked strong. The four of them kept playing games in the front (I assume none of them wanted to lead) and a large pack formed behind them.

    Some 15 kilometers into the race the trail becomes narrow and it was at that point that the pace quickened a bit. For some reason I did not feel particularly strong and I had trouble responding to the change in pace. I ended up skiing with a young Canadian guy named Bill. I was a little jealous of Bill because he apparently had a fan club and his Dad was giving him feeds. At one point I tried to grab the leftovers of Bill's bottle but he threw it a little too far into the bushes . . . I was a little hungry and again concerned about the food situation. My new master-plan for eating was to stick a gel-pack in my sleeve and pull it out when I was hungry in the middle of the race. As it turned out, some object went flying right as I took my second pole after the gun went off. After a moment of confusion I realized the missile was my gel pack - with 700 skiers coming like a herd of elephants behind me there was no going back for it . . . In any case, I skied with Bill for a while before we were caught from behind by another group. Not good!

    At the next feed station I took an extra dose of energy drink and seemed to feel instantly better. I quickly gapped the Bill-group but found myself in no-man's land - by my figuring I was about a minute behind Dennis Kotcon and Mike Dietzman (the ever-present RiverBrook contingent). Feeling good, I decided to put a hard charge in and try to catch them. Fortunately, we happened to be on a relatively flat section at the time and I caught them just before we hit the hills again. It is amazing how hard it is to cover the last 15 feet when trying to bridge a gap like that.

    Dennis and Mike and I traded the lead for the next 12 kilometers or so. Unfortunately, Mike apparently lost his gel pack as well because he had a rough time of it at the end. Always tough, Dennis was setting a good pace until - snap! - he broke his pole. I skied the next 6 kilometers by myself - kind of a bummer. Dennis managed to hold off Bill and another guy by using a borrowed 145 centimeter bamboo special - pretty impressive.

    Next stop - the Hoito - where they serve breakfast until 7 p.m. I haven't checked the list recently, but if Finnish pancakes are not one of the Seven Wonders of the World somebody has to make a new list. I have seen Niagra Falls - while impressive I would take the pancakes any day.

    When we arrived back in Duluth, Grandpa reported that Ellie had been a perfect angel - she went right to sleep at night and took a nap without protesting. So Ellie is grounded again. This time for being grossly dishonest about her true temperament. It is amazing how early kids learn to be manipulative. It is sad to learn that you are the one being manipulated.




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.

Grant Nelson, Josie and David Nelson are based out of Hoigaard's and FastWax.

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