Greetings from Norway …

… Home of the World’s Slowest Internet. That’s not entirely fair. It’s just that where we’re staying and at the race venue, the Internet runs at pre-dialup speeds. Loading the text from a weather model comes in line-by-line, if it comes in at all. We’re in a town, and nothing happens. Folks with international data plans don’t fare much better. But, it’s enough to obsess over weather, and post updates here.

What’s happening in the weather? Well, it’s warm-but-not-too-warm in Norway. 30s during the day, 20s at night. The ski orienteering trails are fast and icy, and I broke a ski today (an all-too-common occurrence in Ski-O). First race is tomorrow! And home in Boston, they’ve had 70 inches of snow in two weeks. That’s the most snow a major city in the US has ever received in that short a time. It’s more than all but 11 of the past 122 years’ total snowfalls. It sounds like great skiing, but a total cluster in the city.

Oh, but you want to know about weather at the Birkie? Well. Some snow in the next couple of days. Woohoo! Should freshen things up and get it in good shape for the race. The main concern now is a meltdown, and it doesn’t seem to be in the cards. As we get closer to race day, there really haven’t been any warm temperatures showing up in the forecast, so barring something unprecedented (say, 70-inches-of-snow-in-two-weeks-unprecedented) the course should be in good shape.

The issue could be the cold. Several recent model runs have shown some chilly weather down in to Birkieland around the start of the race, the most recent with temperatures around -20. Farenheit. This is not likely, but not out of the cards. It would be nice to have a good 2009-style race—10 at the start, 30 at the finish—again, but it seems like we can’t get lucky with good snow and decent conditions. Either too cold (2011) or too much snow (2014). But things can change, and the long-term trends are good. Hopefully we’ll hit the peak of a rise in temperatures and can eke out something without a minus sign in front of it (in ˚F, we certainly want a minus-something ˚C).

2015 changes, live

You probably got the email from Birkie about changes to expect this year in Birkieland. There are a couple of very notable changes:

  1. Parking. From the south, you’ll turn right off of Highway 63 in to the new Birkie Ridge parking lot. From the north, you’ll turn right in to the Como Lot. Assuming the Birkie Ridge lot doesn’t become a marsh or isn’t way too small, this is fantastic, as it will eliminate cross traffic and should double the throughput of vehicles in and out of the lots.
  2. The trail got a little longer. For a while, the Birkie was billed as a 51k race, then pulled back to 50k. Well, it’s back to 51. There’s a new loop down through the fish hatchery area, which moves the feed off of Highway 77 and adds a bit of new terrain. It will be fun to see how it skis. If you’re going to warm-up before race day, that’s probably not a bad place to go.
The Birkie also has a new map app up which you can find here. A few things to note:
  1. There is not 1350m of climb on the Birkie Trail. There’s a bit more half that. I went in to this to some degree with Strava and the Birkie, and we came to the conclusion that it’s about 800 or 900m of climb. Of course, in 2014, it seemed like more.
  2. A bunch of the climbs have been named. I’ve heard of Boedecker Hill and Bitch Hill, but not Big Bertha Descent. And there’s no climb in to Gravel Pit (it’s after a descent), but there are big ascents after Mosquito Brook and Highway 77. Also, there’s something about the power lines. This page still recommends the race guide to the climbs.
  3. If you’re skiing in Cable and there’s a climb called The Wall, it’s on the World Cup Trail at Telemark. And let me tell you from racing experience, it’s a doozy of a pitch unmatched in steepness by anything on the Birkie Trail. (The Telemark trails are shells of their former selves, but it sounds like they are at least getting some maintenance.)

Early weather speculation, and an update from the home front


It’s February, I’ve bought my plane ticket to the Birkie (you can even save a couple bucks using the Delta meeting code NMJDQ, see here), and there’s some snow on the Birkie Trail. Not feet, like last year, but enough. So things are looking okay for the race, which is barely more than two weeks away!

So, it’s time for some good weather speculation. Which might be paltry this year. In the past few years, we’ve had a lot of weather speculation. Is it going to snow? Is it going to be cold? Is it going to rain? And we’d do that this year, again (and by “we”, I mean “I”) except I’ll be abroad. No, I’m not taking a vacation to Cabo, or something silly like that. I’m off to Norway. Quick aside: plane tickets to Norway in the winter are pretty cheap, as are hotels. Why would you go in the summer anyway? I’m going for ski orienteering world championships (yup, a real thing) to ski for a week (oh, and I’m going to have a chance to ski around Oslo as well), and won’t have a ton of internet connectivity; I’m not sure how much. So I won’t be on top of all the model runs, and hope there’s lots of snow when I get back.

Right now? It looks pretty okay. The past few runs have shown cool and mostly dry weather heading towards Hayward, but hinted at a few inches of snow in the next week, and no warm ups in the near future. I’d take that.

Anyway, if anyone wants to take over Weather Speculation, let me know, and I’ll give you the Elite Wave credentials to get in to the site. (Okay, it’s a password.)

Of course, you know what else I’d take? 42″ of snow in a week. That’s what we just got in Boston. The old record was 31. Everything ground to a halt for a couple of days, but the skiing is great, and the scenery along the river spectacular. I may or may not have run across the frozen, windblown Charles the other day. If it crusts over, the river crust skiing would be epic. So I’ll try to send some karma the way of the Birkie. We don’t really need much more snow here, but we’ll take it.

Finally, a note on race reports. Several people have emailed me 2014 reports and I’ll try to post them, but I’m leaving for Norway on Friday and barely have time. Looking ahead, I’d love your reports for 2015. I am going to try to set up a blogging template on WordPress so that you can create your own race report (and I can do as little as possible …) but doubt that’s going to be in place. In lieu of that, a couple of guidelines to keep in mind (I’ll repost this after the race, but keep these in mind):

  • Please send me text with as little formatting as possible. I have to get it Internet-ready, so a PDF with in-line photos really doesn’t work. Sending the text in a plain word doc or the body of the email is best. I’m drawing the line this year. If I have to pull out carriage returns and such, I’m not posting it. Sorry.
  • I’ll post photos, but please send them as separate attachments.
  • Proofread! Please proofread. I have to proofread, and if there are fifteen spelling mistakes on the first page I might give up.
  • Consult a style guide. Use em dashes (—) and elipses (…) not double hyphens (–) and treble periods (…). And single spaces after punctuation. I’m amazed that is still a thing.
  • Keep it clean, and not ad hominem. If you want to call out a person who didn’t let you pass on a hill at 20k, don’t mention their number or name, unless it’s a buddy of yours.
There will probably be more. But keep ’em coming!
And see you soon in Hayward.