I’m running the New York City marathon this weekend.

So are:

Kikkan Randall, Brian Gregg, Ida Sargent, Liz Stephen.

Combined, we have 11 Olympic appearances. I’ll let you guess who has zero.

But Kikkan and Brian were kind enough to come on the podcast and talk about their race preparation, and how it is to go from skiing towards running (and probably back to skiing soon).

(Oh, yes, Kikkan Randall on the BirkieGuide Podcast, pretty exciting.)

Find the podcast here, or download the .mp3 directly here if you want.

More results aggregation

Another entry to the burgeoning field of aggregating race results, this with data back 20 years! Birkielo (an elo rating system for ski races) gives you a score based on where you placed in races (taking in to account the strength of the field, using math!). Also, if you’ve skied a lot of races it doesn’t show all the results. Still a very cool tool, and probably has results going back as far as I’ve seen!

Race Replay

This year, the entire race was streamed live and is up on the Internet.

My favorite point is at 1:51 in to the video, when the men’s Elite field’s leaders pass a female skier wearing a colorful race suit and bib 501. None other than Kikkan Randall. She pulls off and double poles and the racers glide right by. The best part? The announcer doesn’t even notice!

Around 2:17, the men pass the women, just before Bitch Hill. I’m sure they’re working hard, but they look better on Bitch Hill than I did! Both races formed in to small packs around Highway OO, with four women and three men skiing the second half of the race together. At 2:38, Alayna Sonnesyn breaks the women’s pack on the Highway 77 climb, and the men stay together to the finish. The men hit Main Street at 2:49 for the sprint, and the women a minute or two later.

Congrats to the winners … and to everyone else who didn’t make the video.

Quick Birkie recap

Not a bad Birkie. A little snow, a little soft, a lot of skiing. And, no, the drizzle and rain that some predicted didn’t exactly materialize. The course skied cold and soft. This is quite often the case.

Way before I had the chance (or time, or energy, or skills) someone’s gone ahead and posted a bunch of data visualization. Check it out! And stay tuned for podcasting in the next few days. We have a bit of editing to do, but it should be a good podcast this year.

I may even post a personal race story for the first time in … a long time.

Final(ish) call

Hope you’re ready (especially if you are skiing the Korteloppet).

The trail looks great. Lots of snow, lots of webcams. And a nice transformation if you had a cached version of a webcam like I did:

Screen Shot 2019-02-22 at 8.34.49 AM Screen Shot 2019-02-22 at 8.34.58 AM

That’s not too bad! The rest of the trail looks great, too. Cloudy, with a little spitting snow. I wound up being on a late flight so I’m inferring form the amount of snow on the ground in Minneapolis that there’s a lot of snow in Birkieland.

As for the weather …

The consensus is that it will be in the 20s to start for the Birkie, rising to around freezing during the race. As for the snow, there’s likely to be something. Probably around an inch, but with a ± of about … an inch. There could be nothing, but I’d expect at least a coating on the trail, and maybe after the groomers can groom it in, i.e. right before the race. So it won’t be hard, by any stretch of the imagination.

However, the snow will slow down travel tomorrow morning, so leave plenty of extra time to get to the start. An additional half hour may not be a bad idea, especially if you’re coming from further away. Warm, falling snow can be come ice, especially on any grades or hills as cars churn it below their wheels. So, take it easy, take it slow, take your time, and get ready to race.

Then, on Saturday evening, a heavier system moves through, with several inches of snow (but a sharp cutoff near the Birkie) and strong winds. If the Birkie was Sunday morning, it would be a mess.

Can we complain? Probably. Should we? Well, no, probably not. There are certainly worse places we could be.

We may produce a podcast from the Expo today to put on the radio when you’re driving to the start tomorrow. If not, find us (me) in Hayward (look for a guy with a media bib and a backpack full of beer) to get on the big podcast!



Two days …

Or one day if you’re skiing the Korteloppet.

Birkieland received several inches of snow on Wednesday and it’s getting groomed up today to set overnight. The Korteloppet should be excellent, with temperatures in the 20s under partly sunny skies. Just a beautiful day.

Then Friday night it clouds up and a warm front pushes in. It won’t get particularly warm overnight, but this will keep temperatures from falling back much, only in to the low to mid 20s. The course regrooming may not set up as much as people would like, and for classic skiers especially, the area which sees 3000 to 4000 skiers on Friday may have significantly warmer/different snow than the area to the north which is still on the fresh powder, as the pressure from skis may introduce some melting and moisture in to the snow. Of course, it looks like some light snow will fall overnight on Friday night in to Saturday morning, maybe mixed with a bit of freezing drizzle depending on how little saturation is present aloft to create snowflakes. (Let’s not get in to how this works right now.) Whatever comes down should be light, but enough to coat the trail, and it may fall through the start, so I wouldn’t expect rock-solid conditions. As seems to be usual, grab a softer pair of skis (except maybe if you’re in the Elite Women’s field?).

Race temperatures should be in the mid to upper 20s, rising to or just above freezing during the race. No need for lobster gloves this year! It will be cloudy all day, though, so no Lake Hayward sunburn, and yet more snow moves in later on Saturday night. All things considered, we’re dodging a blizzard bullet, given how much snow has fallen. Should be a great day for a race!

Birkie Trail is closed …

… until race day, of course.

Well, technically, it doesn’t close until midnight. So you have two hours to ski it before it turns in to a pumpkin.

Why is it closed? As we discussed in a recent podcast (listen to the podcast!), the Birkie needs to pack and plow the heck out of the trail when there’s this much snow, and having people on the trail slows down that process. (Yes, they’ll plow the 6″—we’re up to 6″ now—will be pushed off with whatever is left incorporated in to the cold base.) And once it’s been packed, if people ski it before it sets up, it could leave ruts which would have to be resmoothed out before the race. It’s not as big a deal as, say, a 40˚ day followed by a deep freeze where the ruts could freeze solid, but it’s still nice to let the groomers do their work.

Plus, do you want to be headed down a hill in to a corner only to see a PB400 staring you in the face? Probably not.

Here’s a made-up question and answer about the trail closure:

Q: If it’s going to snow 6″ on Wednesday anyway, why can’t I sneak a ski in before they groom that?

A: You probably could and would probably get away with it. But the Birkie crew will probably be out during the storm packing, especially on the Korteloppet course south of OO. There aer plenty of other trails to choose from, so maybe stick to those?

Q: The Birkie used to allow skiing on Thursday or even Friday, why does the trail close on Tuesday now?

A: Well, it closes on Wednesday for all intents and purposes. And there are races on Friday, so Wednesday is the new Thursday.

Q: Why can’t I ski on the north end of the trail during the Korteloppet? Surely they’ll give it another pass.

A: Surely they will. But they might be grooming the north end during the Korteloppet. Get the Korte in shape and then move north for some final prep. Depends on a lot of things. Also, with the Telemark trails and the North End trails and any trails that aren’t race trails, you can ski the north end, so maybe just do that instead? Or maybe, I don’t know, taper?

Q: Mukwanago is so far away!

A: Mukwanago is not far away at all! It’s 6 miles from Hayward. And word is they got out and packed it a bunch. And it’s a terrific trail.

Q: Where else can I find places to ski that aren’t the Birkie Trail.

A: Skinnyski.

Q: Are conditions good in other places?

A: Yes.

Q: I’m a #pro and I need to obsessively test wax on Friday for the race, where can I go?

A: Probably the warm-up track near the start would work? Or the west loops at OO, if they’re regroomed? Or go on the trail and be really annoying to other skiers testing wax, that’s a good idea.

Q: Can I ski the Korteloppet course after the Kortie and before they regroom it?

A: Officially: no. Unofficially: probably, but why? Just ski loops at OO or Mosquito Brook or at Fish Hatchery or Birkie Ridge. Again, you don’t want to meet a groomer coming down the trail as you’re going up. They’ll probably be grooming from both directions (I think a machine lives in Hayward during the race—the Birkie posted a photo getting gas at a gas station downtown—and can come up the lake and over the hill, the rest of the machines live at OO) so just let them be, mmkay?

Q: Is the Birkie Trail the shortest way to ride my snowmobile to Metro’s?

A: No. Or maybe, depending on where you are, but stick to the sled trails, please. Unless you’ve been deputized to pull a drag. (Also, apparently Metro’s has been closed for a decade.)

Q: Okay, so, I’m going to ski at North End. Some of the North End trails cross the Birkie Trail or even use it for a few meters to go from one side to the other. Will there be Birkie police out there if I cross the trail or ski down it for 30m to get to the rest of the North End trail? Can I do that? I want to be good but I want to get a ski in!

A: You know what? Use your best judgement. If the groomer went by three minutes before and you’d be putting ruts in the trail going across, maybe wait a few minutes, or ski gently in the tracks and cross double-poling at a right angle, or circle back. If it’s not final-passed or pretty solid, you’re probably in the clear. Just let it be our little secret. Abide by the spirit of the rule.

I think we can do this.