We're just about ready to enter the start area. Steve Bantz (right) and myself are in Wave 5 and will enter the starting area shortly after this photo was taken. Kyle Bantz, skiing her first Birkie, will start 20 minutes later in Wave 7. Start area photos by Juliane Bantz.
Wave 5 just about ready!
Another look at Wave 5. I'm in the upper right quadrant of this photo looking straight at the camera.
I started skiing easy knowing that before long I'd hit the first big hills on the Powerline section of the course. First thing I noticed is that it was cold! Still well below zero F. I hoped I would warm up as I skied.
The second thing I noticed was that my skis were a little slower than I expected. Well nothing to do about that now -- just ski!
I skied easy to the Powerlines and tried to keep a relaxed pace through those steep hills. My left knee hurt some when skiing on the hard trail base so I tended to look for the softer parts of the trail on which to ski.
I began to warm up nicely and felt pretty good. But on every downhill my face got really cold. Putting my hands in front of my face when I tucked on the downhills really helped there.
The first 23 kilometers of the Birkie Trail are hilly. Some say the hills are relentless. Well maybe they are but since I knew the course fairly well each big hill was like a familiar landmark. Some of the steeper downhills were a little icy and I skied cautiously there. Before long I reached Hwy OO.
After OO the feed stations are farther apart and the course skis easier. But by now a fine cold snow was falling. The skis got slower and so did I.
On one of the first steep downhills after OO I was skiing near the center of the trail next to the classic tracks which were on the left. A Classic skier stepped out of the track and immediately fell in front of me. He hit the snow hard and started sliding down the hill. I was aiming right for him! The trail there was pretty icy and control there was problematic. Thinking to go left I saw another skater coming past me so I decided to head to the right.
The ice made turning tough and I kept heading straight for the fallen skier. I began to consider bailing out but just as I was about to crash I managed to slalom around the guy. Wow! That was close. I was so excited I let out a big yell. Several skiers congratulated me on my move.
On and on I skied. The flats and hills kept passing by. Shortly after the feed station at Mosquito Brook there is a long sneaky uphill. A big group of spectators were cheering on skiers there. A big boom box blasted out some hard rhythmic music. It seemed to perk up everyone.
I said it's a sneaky hill. It goes up and up and up. Then we reached the group with the boom box. Several folks pushed hard to reach that spot. But the trail turns slightly there and then the rest of the hill comes into view. I knew that upper part was coming and maintained my tempo all the way to the top.
It seemed quite a few got too energized by the music and had a tough time of it after that curve. Another hill down and only 10 more kilometers to go.
Steve skiing hard on Main Street (left) and shortly after crossing the finish line.
Bitch Hill came next. I was disappointed to discover no one at the top of that monster hill urging us on. Oh well, keep skiing. Some downhills, some up hills and the final feed station comes into view.
One more big uphill after that and a few minutes later and I ski onto the lake. Kyle mentioned that it was a long way across the lake. It does seem to go on forever. But then the shore comes closer and before I can think about how much farther it might be I'm skiing on Main Street.
Skating on Main Street (above) and at the finish line (below). My frosty beard is testimony to the fact that it definitely stayed cold all day.
The re-enactment of the 800-year-old legend that inspired the creation of the American Birkebeiner cross country ski race featured Gale Otterholt and Marv Franson assuming the roles of Torstein and Skervald, the Birkebeiner warriors who rescued Prince Haakon during the Norwegian Civil War in 1206. Gretchen Lindgren, dressed as Inga from Varteig, mother of Prince Haakon. The trio skied from the start all the way to Hayward on wooden skis while dressed in period clothing and carrying battle armor.
Previous Main Street photos by Juliane Bantz.
Kyle Bantz on Main Street (above and below left).
A big smile and giant hug from dad were highlights of my day!
One may ski many Birkies. But you never forget the first time! Congratulations Kyle!
Once I stopped skiing the cold really set in. Fortunately Juliane had a parking space right near the finish and the car was warm. Steve set me up with some recovery drink while I changed into warm dry clothes. A hot bowl of chicken noodle soup completed the warming process.
Another Birkie was over. We celebrated at the Flat Creek Inn that evening. We each relived the events of the day and shared our experiences. Kyle wore her medal to dinner and Steve and I had out pins. It was really nice to see how many people came to our table to congratulate Kyle on her first Birkie. Look back at her photo. Isn't that smile a great testimony to her achievement? That smile the best way to end another great day on the Birkie Trail.
As I write this it is only 348 days to Birkie 2012! I'll be there and I hope to see you all there too!
The forecast for race day was a morning low temperature around or slightly below zero F with a high of 17 F and a slight chance of light snow.
The snow conditions on the trail included areas of clean snow, areas of dirty snow and areas of brushed ice and transformed snow all mix with powder snow.
Toko suggested to apply LF Blue, scrape and brush, then apply HF Blue, scrape and brush. Finish by rotocorking JetStream Blue. It was also suggested to add X-Cold Powder to the HF Blue for faster skis.
Swix suggested one layer of Swix Marathon Was (DHF104BW) and one layer of HF$BW. Each layer should be scraped and brushed with a fine steel brush followed then a ultra fine steel brush.
Steve suggested, and I agreed, that we wax with Toko LF Blue and HF Blue mixed with X-Cold Powder. We skipped application of JetStream.
Steve ironing in some LF Blue in the ballroom of the Flat Creek Inn.
We completed waxing in the hotel ballroom around 11:00 AM and spent the rest of the day completing some ski testing for Eagle River Nordic and relaxing. We were confident our skis would be fast.
On race morning the weather threw us a little curve. Temps were -12 F just before the start, much colder than anticipated. And it never warmed up much during the day. Seems like the bank thermometer on Hayward's Main Street said something around +2 when I finished. The frosting on the cake was several hours of a fine, cold, light snow.
These conditions really impacted our skis. My skis were a little slower than anticipated at the start but they were fairly quick. As the track softened though, and the new snow began to fall, my skis felt as if there was some friction device on their base. Things seemed to slow way down. My race times bore this out. My pace time was 5 minutes 40 seconds per kilometer early on and slowed to 6 minutes 26 seconds during the time of heaviest snowfall. As the snow let up my pace increased a little.
We discussed our wax choice after the race and agreed that if we had known that the temps would be that low and stay low all day we might have used Toko Blue instead of LF and HF Blue. But since we can't turn back the clock and re-ski the race we'll never know if that would have been better.
Congratulations to all Montana Birkie Skiers!
Posted March 7, 2011
Montana was well represented in the Birkie this year. Here are all of the Montana skiers who completed the American Birkebeiner or Kortelopet ski races on February 26, 2011. I congratulate everyone on their performance.
||Jason A Roberts
||Jeffrey P Lepley
||Jake K Morgan
||Joseph L Meng
||Erick E Sorenson
||Martin M Miller
||Thomas J Osborne
||Tucker T Haunt
||Kendrick A Trostel
||Ralph C Thornton
||Martin C Kaarre
||Mark E Peterson
||Jerome E Coffey
||Jill M Owen
||Daniel E Bonadurer
||Kathryn A Rogotzke
||Minde K Meng
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The Barnebirkie - A Race for Kids
Posted March 6, 2011
One of the pre-race highlights of Birkie Week is the Barnebirkie kids race. Over a thousand kids ages 3-12 participate and ski 1, 3 and 5 kilometer courses that all end at a finish line on Hayward's Main Street.
The big kids ski pretty fast and come zooming into the finish line. But I enjoy watching the youngest skiers. They are often wearing costumes and look pretty fancy.
Others show the concentration needed for skiing fast. All the finishers receive a nice medal and enjoy cookies and Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate at the finish line.
If your child is photographed here let me know. I'll send you a large digital file of the photo.
The rest of my Birkie story will be posted next week.
No Trains? Here's Why!
Posted March 6, 2011
I prefer to travel to the Midwest by train. Amtrak has daily service from Montana to Chicago on the Empire Builder. But like any other form of transportation it has problems with extreme weather.
Last Sunday I expected to board the train in Columbus, Wisconsin and relax in my sleeper, enjoy a great New York steak dinner with wine and sleep through the night as the Builder headed west. But Amtrak called me Sunday morning to let me know my train was cancelled due to extreme weather conditions in Montana. The service remained suspended for several days.
In stead of heading west, I decided to go south. I enjoyed an evening with Steve and Juliane in Milwaukee and visited my brother in Illinois for a few days until the Empire Builder could resume service. During my stay in Illinois I found this photograph taken by Martin Connelly Jr.
The photo was taken from the overpass on US 2 just west of Browning, Montana. As you can see the snow played havoc with the trains. BNSF had the tracks cleared and freight and passenger travel is returning to normal.