Elm Creek Team Race – Race Report

Team Cyclova XC

Tuesday night was another of the Elm Creek “Wednesday” Time Trials.  It was Tuesday night because of the holidays.  In a one time special event, it was also a team event sponsored by Fulton Brewery.  With the promise of a pair of painful 5k ski races and more importantly free beer, this sounded like a fantastic event.

Team Cyclova XC consisted of Frank Lundeen, Mitchel Bruns, Alisa Reckinger, and myself (Ben Mullin).  The race ran as any other Wednesday night race ran, a mass start 5 km skate race at 7:00 pm, and a mass start 5 km classic race at 7:30 pm.  The difference was that you would score points for your team depending on your place.  Team size was not a bonus or penalty, but the scoring was essentially driven by your fastest two competitors of a single gender and the fastest of the other.  Having both genders was definitely a necessity so we were very thankful to have Alisa join us for the night.

Last week was my first time ever racing this winter long series.  There was about 25 people for the skate race and 5 for the classic.  The weather was 34+ F and the snow was soft and slushy.  This week, the promise of free beer and team glory brought over 90 people for the skate race and 60 people for the classic race this despite temperatures below zero at the start.  “Offer beer and they will come.”

Token for a beer at the brewery received at registration.

Before I get to my traditional race report and post race analysis, I’ll hit the team recap.  Despite solid performances all around, this was a stacked field.  Vakava is loaded with a bunch of elite wavers and front of wave oners both male and female.  They easily walked away with the trophy (well they would have if they had managed to figure out the scoring that evening).  The next few teams included a number of college teams, some fast folks from the sponsor, and other elite training groups in the Twin Cities area.  I feel Cyclova XC was solid holding down the middle of the field.

Strong cheering support from Ingrid, Lisa, and Starr (not pictured).

With any luck, this will become a yearly thing and I would encourage all Cyclova XCer’s to consider adding this inexpensive, no frills, no pressure race to your early season.  It is always fun to line up for the start of a ski race.

Team Results Here

Remember to re-hydrate after racing.

Ben’s Race Report – 5 km Skate

First up was the skate race.  I was having trouble deciding how to dress appropriately.  The last few weeks of above freezing temps had softened me and the now below zero temps had me scared.  I ended up in my Cyclova XC suit and my Forest Lake Nordic vest.  At the end of the skate race I decided that I would wear the warm-up pants for the classic race.  I’ll let you figure out why.

The race started on the flat near the parking lot.  A field this size and that area was packed.  There was probably 15 people across and 5 rows deep.  Frank grabbed a spot in the track on the front line.  I opted for the third row and Mitchel was a row behind me.  There was a bit of a delay for the start and we were all getting cold and antsy.  The pre-race announcements were impossible to hear with all of the squeaky skis.  I decided to go when the people in front of me went.

As can be expected in a field this size and a start area that small, there was some carnage.  I managed to avoid it.  I did however double pole for nearly a full kilometer all the way down to past the practice field and around the corner.  At that point it rolls down towards the “whale tail”and I could see the field rolling out in front of me.  I started skating and just tried to be smooth and steady and not get all tense like last week.

It seemed to be working well and I was moving up in the field throughout the first lap.  Around the “big” uphill I noticed I was skiing next to Angie Robinson from Vakava.  I’ve worked and skied with Angie before and knew she had posted some results at the Vakava summer roller ski time trials that were better than mine (roller ski trials are difficult to compare, but needless to say she is fit and fast and a solid benchmark).  I think I pulled ahead of her around the hill and never saw her again.

Pulling through the start area to start the second lap, Mitchel came absolutely flying by me.  I’ll be honest here, my first thought was “crap, I’m going to be out of the points for Cyclova XC.”  A bit selfish.  There wasn’t anything for me to do but to do my best to jump on the Bruns Express and catch a ride.  He hauled all the way until about 3.5 km on the gradual descent to the “whale tail” again.  There were a pair of young women from the same team skiing side by side.  Mitch managed to throw down a massive double pole burst and break-up the road block for us.  Unfortunately, per his race recap that blew him up.  I pulled ahead of him on the big descent just shy of 4 km and never saw him again.

Approaching the “big” hill for the last time I saw Frank fading hard.  Having been taken to school by Frank last week, and not having seen him since the start of the race, I suddenly had inspiration to return the lesson.  I threw down what felt like a pretty impressive burst up the hill with a nice V1 jump skate.  I reigned it back in all the way up to the parking lot trying to maintain good technique and recover a little bit.  I followed Frank down into the donut and then surged again to pass him on the uphill.  From there I just held on and hoped he didn’t have another gear to outsprint me to the line.

I should also note that at this point I saw that just ahead of Frank was Vakava Coach and kick-ass master (senior?) skier Dave Christopherson.  Dave is a damn good skier and this was the closest I’ve ever been to beating him.  He seemed pleased with his result in a post race discussion so that boded well for this being a solid race for me.

There was a bit of chaos and confusion at the finish line as they wanted us to stay in line.  I didn’t get the memo and think I lost a spot in the confusion.  The results have me down for a slightly faster time than I actually had though.  We’ll call it a wash as it wasn’t going to make or break anything.

Ben’s Race Report – 5 km Classic

Classic race start.  I’m in there somewhere.

How about a few less words this time?  I changed into my classic stuff in the chalet after the skate race.  There were a few more people (5 last time, 60 something this time) doing the classic race this week so they gave us a bit more time.  I opted to put my warm-up pants on for this race.  It was chilly out there.

I think I started on the second line this go around.  There was still carnage.  I heard what could have been a ski or pole breaking.  It wasn’t me and I avoided that mess.  Lap one was generally uneventful.  I had great kick with an ironed in layer of VG30 topped with two thin layers of VR30 corked in (with one more layer of VR30 the next day I skied 36 km on the Birkie trail as well with pretty solid kick!).  My glide was decent.  I could stick with folks double poling or gliding and then out-strode them on the uphills.

Around the end of lap one I found myself next to Kathleen DeWahl from Vakava and just back of Dave Christopherson again.  I managed to stab my pant leg and nearly go down (I forgot to fully zip my warm-up pants) around the start line and lost contact with Kathleen and one other person.  It took considerable effort to close the gap again and when I had Dave and another small group had broken away.

Kathleen, the other guy, and I sped through that last lap and I managed a very solid finish in the middle.

Not the most photogenic at the end of a cold 5 km race.

Post Race Analysis

Just based on who I finished near I thought my results were very solid for the night.  I had taken the day before off, but had a huge volume weekend of fantastic skiing.  So even before crunching any numbers I was pretty pleased that things were trending in the right direction.

But, there are numbers.  I like numbers.  I plugged both results into my magic correlation spreadsheet and the numbers look good.  Overall the classic race appears to have generally been the stronger race.  But both were pretty solidly some of my best performances over the last few years.  My spreadsheet isn’t extrapolating a 5 km race into qualifying for the elite wave of the 50 km Birkie yet.  But it is getting closer.

Comparing the skate race against everything I’ve done the last few years.  Solid results.
Comparing the classic race.  All indicating this was my best result.  For what it’s worth anyhow.

I’m off racing for a few weeks.  I was planning on it anyhow, and then I nearly broke my wrist standing at the OO trailhead last night.  I think I’ll be fine, but I might be doing some serious no-pole/one-pole skiing over the next week or two.  Otherwise next up will be a double header weekend with the 22 km Seeley Hills Classic on Saturday the 17th and the 25 km Marine O’Brien Skate on Sunday the 18th.  Should be a solid weekend of racing (provided we get enough snow in the next two weeks to ski at O’Brien).

There are some folks racing the Sisu Ski Fest on the 10th.  I expect someone to fill the race reporting gap!

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