Monday, February 01, 2021

Cross Country Skiing


Brainerd skiers in the Moorhead Nordic Invite Skate Race, January 22nd, 2021.

It's been a long time since I've updated the blog. Instagram taking precedent but many thoughts don't go published, and probably rightfully so in this recent election cycle. But I've decided to try and get back into it, this is more of a test post with much more thought on the state of Cross Country skiing when time permits. Stay tuned.....

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Chequemegon 2019

The first season I raced mountain bikes in 1990, the last race I did of that year was the Short and Fat which was part of the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival. I returned for a number of years, missed a few years when we lived in Norway and lived out west but when we moved back to Maplelag, we went every year that we could creating a lot of great memories. 
It worked out on the schedule to go this year. It wasn't planned as I never pre-register for a race more than a week out as things always change last minute, more so it seems. There were still registration openings when I checked in August so I signed up and Jonell and I made plans to return, staying at a B and B we have stayed at a half dozen times in years past.

We snuck over on Thursday, first stopping in Duluth to hook up with Jake and Anna for some pre-wedding things and a dinner in a rainy evening.
The next day I waited until the rain stopped but it didn't last long as the skies opened up again during the ride. All good, I was stoked I didn't have to worry whether or not the race would happen as the Chequamegon always runs rain or shine, unlike most races now today.
Jonell enjoying peace and quiet while I was out riding.
I did about 15 miles of the course, making a loop off the "00" road. As I turned off to head back to the car. I came upon a group of people and lo and behold it was the original race director for 30 years, Gary Crandall. Gary was directing a group of Canadians from Winnipeg for next days course marshaling. Many have been to Maplelag so it was pretty unreal to bump into them and Gary. Caught up quick than made it back to the car.
Everyone understand?
Jonell and I have stayed at the Spider Lake Lodge and number of times and it was good to be back. New owners and a few minor changes but the isolation peace and quiet the main attraction.
Saturday morning was race day. The sound of a couple thousand bikers rolling out is like nothing else and kept attentive to avoid any early race crash.
Had a super fun racing, working with a group of guys and had a blast with the wet sometimes muddy conditions.
Jonell has always been so supportive and great to have her waiting at the finish line.
Catching up with team members Ben and Keith post race. It's been great logging rides with these guys during the season. Keith and I had some great rides later in the season, even after full day of trail work (or cross training I would tell Keith)
Always fun to see the variety of bikes at Chequamegon including the retro rides people still use. All good if the wheels keep moving.

Post race we stopped at Main Street Tacos for a massive spread of Mexican eats. Great stuff.
Couple shout outs....Local bike shop owner Dave Langworthy who always is good to help with last minute repairs and equipment needs. Waving the Laddies Loppet flag, thanks for the support.
Shout out to the rider who flatted out and provided his bottle for me after I missed a feed. It was about the halfway point and was a race saver. Didn't find out who it was. If by chance you see this, please reach out to me.
After lunch on main street, we booked it over to Alexandria to see Jens play. He is in his second year at the NorthStar academy playing hockey. The above photo is great to see. Every single game these guys play in,
Great weekend!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Ski Camp

Ski season at Maplelag officially kicks off with a high school ski camp the middle of December. This past season we enjoyed skiing for almost a month before as snow came early on November 12th and stuck all the way through until April 19th. Having enough snow for skiing for a dozen people versus enough snow for 200 kids that ski multiple laps are two very different things. It takes year round prep to have the trails ready for high volume and hard skiing. It's a challenge I enjoy and a great reward when you can pull it off early in the season. After that first weekend, HS teams will come up for a month, mostly on the weekends or during the break until the last weekend of January and the week before Sections.

T-shirt for this years Ski Camp.
Preparing the base before the first weekend. Over the years you learn what areas to build up before the season starts. Corners, turns and, of course, south facing areas. This year Paulo from Brazil was here for the season to help out and was a absolute blessing.

Waxed up and ready to go. St Paul Highland Park Nordic ski team has been coming for over 10 years now, lead by coach Brad Moening. They will come regardless of the snow conditions and have always gone home improved. They really are a model program to me with the "Just Ski" mentality. With snowmaking and the capacity to have "perfect" conditions, people get in the mindset that you can only ski. Unfortunately, the opportunity to get better is lost when you don't open yourself to be challenged by adverse conditions and become better in the process.
A full day.
Coach Paulson and Moening. I have the the utmost respect for Nordic coaches, coaching in what I feel is the toughest sport. Finding time to train on snow, dealing with all levels of abilities, two types of techniques and throw in waxing...takes special people to make as season works. The teams always have great support from parents to volunteers.
There is always a time trial or a race on the weekend and one of the highlights for me to witness. Racing on a ski trail much difference than training. The deck has to be rock solid and if possible not icy.

With a full day of skiing for the kids, grooming gets a bit tricky. Most of the preparation is during the week to have everything set but staying on top of the grooming and touching up the deck is needed after 200 skiers make 5-6 passes on one trail. Most grooming has to be done between midnight and 5 am. Even then, I've often run into groups that early out for a morning ski.

Moorhead Nordic team set for a early morning headlamp ski.
With most metro schools getting early season training in on the machine made snow loops, there isn't natural snow skiing. It's pretty neat to see kids adventuring in the woods, off the beaten path. Many kids haven't been in a deep woods environment and the opportunity to experience nature in a different way.
The ski camp weekend can be a season maker for many kids. A opportunity to ski big time kilometers. Highland Park skiers proud of 100km skied on the weekend! Included in this group are family friends Cole and Jack Johnson. The first weekend always set the bar for teams later in the season as kids try to out do the others. Think the biggest km weekend was 150km. Having good conditions and the right weather is a big factor though. Kids might put in the same amount of hours but if cold and slow snow, tough to go big.
More adventure skiing. Good stuff.
With most teams coming up on busses, there is always bus issues. Not starting or gelling up and getting stuck or hung up the biggest problem but it always works out.  Above bus "stuck" despite a hard pack surface. Warm tires on warm silky snow not the best traction. The cloud of smoke is burning rubber!
After the second weekend we noticed black marks everywhere. We couldn't figure it until I discovered a black "glob" in the parking lot. The above bust that was burning rubber was throwing rubber pieces in the parking lot. When the sun came out, the rubber softened and picked up on ski boots when people walked through. Tracked into the lodge and cabins. Crazy stuff. Not sure we found all the rubber pieces but snow falling soon after took care of the problem for good.
Not a pleasant photo to post or to deal with but every year there is always something like this to deal with. Want to run a resort, be prepared to plunge toilets anytime of the day and clean up messes like above. This year was the worst with a virus spreading around and definitely a learning experience for the future.

Above team wasn't one that came to Maplelag but the team son Jake helped coach this year. Duluth Marshall made their first ever appearance at state and had a solid
Jake waxing skis the night before.

We always cheer a little louder for the teams that have training camps at Maplelag. St Paul Highland Park girls taking second at State. Love the post season photo playing hockey!
It wasn't a surprise that St Cloud Cathedral won state, led by the Nemeth brothers. Congrats to all teams this year. Nice job to all coaches, volunteers and everyone that helped make it a great year!

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Christmas 2019

Christmas was extra special this year as all four boys were home. First time since August.

Family photo Christmas Eve.
Crazy how fast time flies and where they are all at now.
Skiing with all four boys at the same time always a highlight during break.
Morning ski Christmas Eve has become a nice tradition.
Pre church and back to normal threads.
Always good conversation with family at Grandma Judy's after church before dinner.
Good times continue into gift opening.
Before everyone went back to their respective places, a good sauna and jump in the lake the night before. Special suits thanks to yours truly, given to all nephews and nieces for Fourth of July. I'm counting on it!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Pilot Mound, MB. Canada Road Trip

 Jens and his team the North Star Knights  had their only trip to Canada early December. Worked out for me to road trip up there and catch both games. Always enjoy going to Canada and checking out the smaller towns on the prairie. The hockey culture is strong, obviously, and the small towns take pride in producing NHL players all across the Great White North.

Also enjoy visiting with parents, grandparents or in this case, the goalie coach. Goalies are a special unique breed and probably could say the same about the coaches. All good.
 The arena was a combination of a multiple of buildings and structures put together. Like many older rinks, nothing else like it.
Banners from teams past.
 Priceless catching the conversation between coach and player.
 Snow in Miami. Next morning took a little road trip making way to Ski Birch or Birch Hill. Nordic area with some sweet mountain bike trails I raced on back in the day.
 There was about 6" of new snow overnight. Probably should of had the skis and definitely should of had the bike set up with fat tires, not plus.
 Still had a great ride. Lot of push a bike but the downhills were super fun.
 The original logo.
 Pilot Mound would give Callaway a run for its money on population but there is some great folks to come out of PM and like many small Canadian towns, they have a good Chinese restaurant.


 Memorabilia in the arena.
 Women's Olympic team member.
 After every game with this team.
 Jens's lineys. Great guys.

I was able to take Jens back to Grand Forks with me. Great to catch up and highlight of the trip.