From the Back of the Pack
I might always be in the back of the running pack, but I'm addicted to it! When I miss more than a day it affects my energy, attitude, and the rest of life in general! I have had a lot of "character" building runs in the deep snow, extreme nose hair freezing cold, ankle high rain, and gale force winds over the past twenty five years and find some of those days to be the most peaceful rewarding outings of all! I'm one of those runners who is slow and steady, but goes forever and ever without ever getting tired.
February 24, 2014: Birkie Adventures
Duluth became my permanent home about 12 years ago after the Twin Cities failed to satisfy my desires for “real” winters full of yards of fluffy white snow and cooler shorter summers. Unlike many who annoyingly whine about their location having a winter, I embrace it, thrive in it, and suggest the whiners live elsewhere.
With that being said, I absolutely adore this winter, as it is finally a “genuine” winter full of abundant nose hair freezing temperatures and bountiful reoccurring gobs of snow. Yes, there is the occasional obstacle created by the first snow, which barely melted, along with the subsequent snowfalls in mass quantity, but I see all of that as a chance for new adventures!
One such adventure occurred this past weekend during the end of my second decade of treks to the Hayward/Cable area for the magnificent Birkie events. Upon hearing the unusually large anticipated snowfall accumulation totals predicted between 6pm and 6am Thursday into Friday, our plans quickly transformed into an extra night “there”, rather than “here” to ensure Laambeaux and I safely reached the start line for the 4th annual Barkie Birkie skijoring race.
What we failed to take into account when making our decision to relocate a day earlier than planned was that our nesting spot in Cable could potentially be inaccessible by sunrise again preventing the pooch and I from our annual competition! After much debating, scheming various potential morning scenarios, “if this is plowed and not that, or this but not that”…etc…talking to a neighbor about possibly parking in would get us there, we finally made a decision and stuck to it.
After leaving my car, full of valuable skis and such as close to Hwy 63 as possible in Cable, about ¾ of a mile from the dwelling we occupied with the hopes that it would remain intact and untowed until morning. All night I wondered, would I have to ski to the car, walk, get a ride from the owner of the house, or face the unfortunate dilemma of being stuck without any hope of reaching the start line 26 miles away in Hayward.
Upon rising in the morning and inspecting Mother Nature’s efforts from the night before we were still unsure of my demise. My wonderful husband began shoveling the walkway from the house to the owner’s vehicle, then he moved on to the end of the driveway that was supposed to have been plowed out, but the road was instead creating a wall of white stuff. After much debate, the owner ultimately drove me along with all my belongings including a shovel to my car which indeed had been buried in plow snow.
My husband ferociously shoveled my car out as Sue, the owner of my Birkie retreat worked hard to scrape my thick covered windows free of ice and snow. A few pushes and we were on our way to the Barkie Birkie peering through a small clearing in the windshield wondering how many other teams would have the privilege of making the successful trek to the start line!?
Upon our arrival around 9:25am, we spotted Ben Popp, the new director of the Birkie, standing in thigh high snow on Main Street near the start of the race and the groomer just about to start grooming the 3k course for the 10 am commencement.
Adventure number 2 began, about a half an hour later than originally scheduled. As our starting time towards the back of the pack approached, almost all evidence of grooming had vanished and was replaced by human and canine footprints, ski grooves reaching at least 6-10 inches in depth, and a scattering of feces. Laambeaux was more than ready as was I, yet in previous years, her pulling efforts petered off or were sporadic at best so I had quite a few “pep” talks with her reminding her to “pull” the entire time.
A rainbow of booties in pink, red, blue and other varieties were seen in mass quantity this year along with jars of Musher’s Secret all in an attempt to prevent unnecessary poochie stops to pick out toe snow balls. Shortly before our final venture outside to the start line, we were offered some of the Musher’s Secret and gratefully accepted in lieu of the booties, which rarely stay on her furry paws.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1…GO the starter yelled to me! As I propelled myself forward, I skied right over the top of Laambeaux’s furry body because I forgot to tell HER to go! Upon realizing we were FINALLY racing after all the sitting around, this was the year she listened to the pep talk and pulled her little heart out! Unfortunately for my little brown furry friend, the snow was encompassing my skis so badly that any double poling or skating attempts were slowing her down! I struggled to figure out what I could do behind her to allow her to do her best and conditions prevented me with finding a suitable solution to my dilemma.
As we approached the golf course loop, my faith in this little gem of a pooch continued to grow as she was still pulling as if there were a deer lurking ahead . All of a sudden, as we picked up speed on a downhill, I was sharply jerked as she abruptly bent down to remove a snowball from her front paw. Once her task was complete, she again bolted forward as if after a four-legged prey.
We passed big furry white dogs, friendly golden retrievers, intense huskies and more. Just as we passed the team in which the human wore a hat donned with antlers along with a go pro to capture it all, Laambeaux unexpectedly stopped again to clear her paw of the quickly clumping snow. My surprise in this unexpected stop led me to utter some choice words, which were definitely caught on the gopro!
Booties would have been a more intelligent, kind choice as the little speedy one stopped three or four more times to rid herself of the nuisance of the snow between her fuzzy toes. We finally reached glorious Main Street again signaling the end of our short, yet adventurous journey, and were headed into the end through the 29 mph whipping winds and blowing snow. My wonderful husband was loudly yelling “Laambeaux treat” from behind the finish line in the hopes that pulling would continue so that she finished ahead of me instead of the typical behind or next to me.
When the results came in, despite all the stops and challenges with the deep snow, we were ecstatic to see we had placed third for female teams earning a nice handcrafted mug, bag of healthy dog food, and a yummy doggy cookie!!
Two adventures completed, one more to go! As the day progressed and the Mother Nature continued to relocate the twenty inches of beautiful newly fallen snow with her intense 29 mph winds, we began to wonder if the road to our remote Birkie weekend retreat would be plowed or continue it’s path of drifting from halfway closed to fully impassible by morning.
Hoping to avoid skiing out with my overabundance of gear in the wee hours of the morning, I chose to ride out the possibility that my chances of reaching the start line on time could be threatened and left my choice mode of transportation near the house.
Morning arrived and after my pre race preparations were completed, I ventured out the semi drifted driveway and road which thankfully left just enough room for me to maneuver out and get to hwy 63. Upon turning right onto 63, which would take me to the ginormous parking lot 2 miles down the road where the big yellow school busses wait in lines for fully hydrated anxious skiers in their warm clothing with all their gear, traffic was moving at a snail’s pace. Typically I am able to drive at a quickened pace for the first mile and a half before hitting the rest of the vehicles also making their way to the Short Road field lot.
While en route to the bus lot, I thought I heard the radio announcer mention that the tent at the starting line had blown down. Assuming he had made a mistake and was referring to the finish line tent that met its demise the previous day, I did not panic.
Half an hour later, my car was safely parked I quickly boarded the bus, and began the journey to the Hospitality tent near Telemark that was serving as a warm place post bus and pre race. As I departed the crowded bus of amped up skiers and their gear, I spotted a volunteer in a bright yellow vest and asked if indeed it was true that the warming tent at the start line , which I have always relied on to keep my hands warm as I put my boots on and fasten the tedious contraptions, was indeed blown down…and she said yes it was.
Adventure #3 was just getting interesting. With thousands of skiers all trying to stay warm prior to their 15 minute walk to the start line, the Hospitality tent, which was meant as more of a “staging area” than the warm up tent for everyone, was overflowing with bodies. I somehow managed to sneak back into a corner and commandeer a chair so that efforts to take off my warm ups and put my boots on would keep me off of the cold, wet, slippery ground.
Walking down the snow-covered, somewhat icy downhill road to the start line in slippery ski boots was something I had hoped to avoid given my two concussions the previous year. I safely made it to the start line of my wave where the gale force winds blew my poles backwards as my wave began it’s trek over the never ending hills of mashed potatoe like snow to the finish line.
My hopes for continually skate skiing this year were immediately dashed, as conditions were already 4-6 inches deep despite all the grooming and my earlier wave start. Dropping out of an event is something foreign to me. Unless it is a life and death situation, slowing down is always my choice. Knowing that next year would be my 20th and last year of this event and that I had the same wave despite my performance, I chose to make this an enjoyable adventure instead of potential suffer fest.
The next couple of hours included visits with all those who stopped to see if they were ok, chatting a bit then moving on. Stepping aside to let the speedy high school kids from wave 8 pass me by in their attempts to attain a more suitable wave placement for the upcoming year. Frequent stops on the hills to take in the beauty of the newly fallen snow on the pine tree branches with the bright blue sky behind it were a treat. I even took advantage of the aide stations for the first time in my two decades of participating in this continually growing event, instead of taking advantage of those who stopped skiing to eat or drink so I could get ahead of the of them.
The temperatures were perfect , although the wind seemed to be at our face the entire time, and my nose ran like a faucet but I continued to stayed warm.
One big drawback of making the choice to drop back and enjoy my time on the trail instead of fighting the conditions, is being stuck behind those with lesser skills who chose to walk up the hills, thus, making my journey even longer than originally intended.
Being a “ good Samaritan” is something I am a strong believer in during an event. It astonished me that I was the ONLY person to stop and see how a young high school student from a really early wave was as he sluggishly walked up a hill, carrying his skis a few K’s from the finish line. Upon being asked if he was ok, he replied, “no, I need food”. He ravenously accepted the Gu Chomps over the Peanut Butter Clif bar so as to avoid further complications from a nut allergy. I was thrilled to spot him standing on his own two feet instead of on a snowmobile stretcher after I had finished.
Reaching the finish line, just for credit this time, an hour slower than my normal Korte experience was just fine with me! It meant I didn’t work very hard and could go out and play again the next day with out recovery time!
Embrace the cold, winter, snow…make the inconveniences into adventures….there is so much beauty in it and so much fun and exercise to be had!
I love winter. The only thing I am looking forward to summer for is so that I can wear my Green Bay Packer colored Birkie bib as a tank top in the trail races!
February 25, 2013: Winter Asthma Solution!!!
It's been awhile since my last entry, (forgive me runners for I have not written in NR since October of 2011), I have done quite a bit of interesting writing for Silent Sports Magazine however!
Exercised induced asthma has plagued me for many years. My overly abundant energy level is rarely put to use as my frustrating inability to breathe properly always occurs prior to my heart rate rising. I have stood on many an uphill during running races, bike races, and nordic ski races cursing my inability to breathe as my energy level remains at it's peak.
Attempted solutions to this ever so aggravating issue have included inhalers, the cold avenger air exchanger, wearing a wide variety of face/mouth coverings even including a hospital mask, and more! Breathing becomes most challenging in temperatures below 35, temperatures above 70, humidity, and windy conditions.
Last year when I was Chief of Timing for the International Paralympics in Cable Wisconsin, I witnessed numerous foreign athletes with this "thing" in their mouths while they skied. Upon questioning the various individuals I could find who spoke English, I discovered it was a lung warmer.
Upon completion of last year's events, my extensive search for the lungwarmer I had viewed at the competition was unfortunately unsuccessful.
Fortunately due to extremely rare circumstances, the IPC brought the games back to Cable again this year and I was again chosen as Chief of Timing for them. Determined to find out what that mysterious unit in the various foreign athlete's mouths was, I approached the Norwegian coach who I knew spoke English to find out more.
Both she and one of her sitski athletes were very enthusiastic when sharing the information with me. Her athlete said she had been ill all week with a nasty cold during the competition and her coach suggested she use the unit and just try to compete. Not only did this woman compete, she beat out the tough Russian woman who had been dominating everything to win the gold! The athlete told me the unit completely helped her breathing and allowed her to race as she wanted to.
The wise, winning Japanese team used the units as did many other foreign athletes. After chatting with other coaches and the Norweigian timers I was working with, I discovered that using one of these over there is pretty common place for a lot of cold weather athletes even without asthma!
Armed with full information, the unit was easily located on the internet, however, it was ONLY available overseas and having one shipped over here was quite costly! Lucky for me, one of the awesome Norwegian timers offered to purchase one for me as a "thank you" for the two weeks of volunteering for him and send it to me.
Since receiving the unit and using it while sking, my asthma has completely disappeared!! Most recently I skied the Korte with it in and for the first time in 17 years of sking it, I had absolutely NO asthma issues!!! (There were other issues this year such as kick wax on my skate skis and a pocket that didnt' touch unless I was skating...that's a whole other blog)
Because the unit is just a mouth unit and not a mask, I am able to wear sunglasses for the first time in years without fogging! I can also wear the unit when it is warmer and avoid overheating with a mask on! It's super easy to clean too...just hot water or even a dish washer!
There is one drawback to the asthma reliever however, ...drool...lots of it... luckily the race bib catches it though...and heck...being able to breathe vs drooling is totally worth it!
My incredible success with this product made me want to share it with others who have struggled unsuccessfully with this issue for years like I have. This led me to contact the maker of it who graciously has allowed me to be the sole distributor of it in the United States!
I was so excited to finally find something that works so well for me! Those Europeans seem to be light years ahead of us when it comes to many things...heck in addition to this, the timing system I worked with was so slick and efficient it makes most of those here seem archiac!
Now if I could only find something for hot weather asthma!!
July 11, 2011: Tim Krohn's Awesome Adventure!
Today is the reason for this whole trip - The Big Five Marathon. We began with a 5am watch up call so that we could have breakfast and have a ride from our lodge, Ravineside, to the main lodge, Lakeside, and start line. June is winter in South Africa and any time without the sun can be downright cold even if the temperature isn't below freezing. We all bundled up in our fleece, gloves, and knit caps just to go to breakfast. We stayed that way until the race at 8 am when the full marathon began. The half was 15 minutes later and that was followed by the 10 k another 15 minutes later.
We lined up at the start line following some last minute instructions, such as when the rangers say stop - stop - since the elephants and lions have made an unexpected move to the course. The rangers spent the night watching the elephants and lions so the likelihood of stopping the race temporarily was quite small. The rangers even baited the elephants with some pelletized hay that the elephants really like in an area of the reserve a long way from the course. The lions even killed a two wildebeest and one impala in the middle of the night, so they were quite satisfied and spent the rest of the night and day sleeping.
The weather was clear, freaking windy and cold. The debate each us had was what to wear. I chose my running tights, two tee shirts, and my biking windbreaker. One guy dressed in a zebra suit, or what we called a zebra suit - black and white shorts, jersey, and head bandana with strips and patterns. Good thing the lions already ate.
10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 bang the race began promptly at 8 am. We took off down the dirt road. The course was very well marked with kilometer signs counting down from 42. At every intersection there arrow signs and arrows made of course white sand also pointing the way. I felt very good and refreshed from a week off from training. I started slow from normal my starting position near the back of the pack. I soon made my way my running spot in the race. Shortly after the start, we cross through the elephant and lion gate. Our running shoes protected us from the electric current in the wires laid next to the horizontal poles in the gate.
Soon we passed out into the prairie like veld. The wind blew in our face, on our backs, on our side depending on where the course took us. The sideways wind would blow us off course it was so strong. At mile 2 my GPS watch peeped with the message that my data storage was full and it shut down. Moral of the story - empty the storage every so often.
By the time I got to the out and back leg of the course I was in 20th place out of some 70 plus marathon runners.
The next major feature of the race was "the hill". This little beast was a drop in elevation of 450 meters in 3 kilometers (1485 feet in 1.8 miles). Some parts of it had a 45° slope. For maybe a kilometer they had paved it with cement to prevent erosion. Very steep indeed. I ran down the hill using quick baby steps. At the bottom was another aid station. It was here that I felt my first leg cramp. It just was a ting that quickly went away.
Following the hill was "the sand" - nice loose sand to make for hard running. Think of running on dry beach sand. This lasted for 3 or so miles. I treated myself to a power bar at the halfway sign where one the cheetah brothers stopped to sniff and mark it while we watched on our route inspection the evening before. At the bottom of the hill 4 guys about my age caught up to me. For about a mile I was able to stay with them. Then they slowly left me behind. When this lower loop was completed we had to go back up "the hill" on the same road we went down. One had to be careful going up on the steepest parts or you could tip over backwards. I caught up to and passed one of the 4 guys who passed me in the sand. From there on the two of us played leapfrog until near the end of the race. I would pass him on the uphills and he would pass me on the downhills.
After "the hill" should have been a pleasant run, but since my calves were cramping up I had to run-walk the last 9 miles. But I still had my leapfrog partner and a 2nd guy. The last mile was mostly level or down so those two were able to keep getting further ahead.
The finish line was a joy to see and cross as I used whatever was left in my sore legs run the last 50 yards. I finished in 5 hours 24 minutes and 3 seconds. The winner, who was English and had only done two other marathons, finished in 3 hours 35 minutes. The last person to finish was lady from Israel finished in 7 hours and 35 minutes. I finished 26th overall, 20th for the males, and 2nd out of 8 over sixty. The results site has 73 finishers.
Then we had lunch.
We hung out for the rest of the day and then had dinner where we had interesting conversations. I had a very interesting conversation with a young ranger and the park event manager about South Africa before and after the fall of apartheid and the world.
October 28, 2010: Race for Raptors
I am looking for a few runners who would rather help at the Race for Raptors November 13th at Hawk Ridge instead of running it. There are some "key" jobs I prefer to put runners in so it flows more smoothly!
You will still get a headband if you volunteer and be in the door prize drawings!
Please email me at email@example.com or reply to this if you are interested!
October 2, 2010: Kickin Leaves Duathlon
This event is a must for your bucket list!
Since it's inception, I have faithfully done the Grand Traverse every year on this day...this year I decided I'd try the kickin leaves duathlon because of all the positive things I'd heard about it over the past couple of years.
I did it...and every one was right...it is an outstanding event catered to everyone from the beginner to the expert!
This event is billed as a 3 mile trail run, 10 mile bike, and 3 mile trail run...well...that's kinda close...what it really is ends up being a 2.5 mile mostly paved trail like the Munger with a very short stretch of snowmobile trail, a 10 mile or so bike on a newly paved busy road.
Finding the hospital was easy, finding the event was a trick...a few of us drove around for awhile before locating the actual event which was hidden behind the hospital. Once I found it, I went in for day of registration which was very quick and contained really helpful and knowledgeable volunteers. I got a nice little bag and my shirt is being mailed. The shirts were very attractive long sleeved dark green with a neat logo on them.
The morning started out a bit nippy at 40' or cooler with full sun, and luckily there were bathrooms and a nice warm spacious area to change in if need be.
There were I believe well over 80 people and teams that competed in this event. The teams were wearing the same type of number except for the tiny sticker on them that indicated the category, so it was next to impossible to tell if someone on a team was passing or if it was just some fast person doing the whole thing. Some of the people on teams actually said they were on one as they flew by me!
The initial run started on the driveway and ran down into the paved woods trail which eventually turned off into a dirt snowmobile trail and then back onto the paved Munger like trail again. The signage and volunteers out there were amazing! There was absolutely no way anyone could get lost on this course because there was either a sign or a friendly volunteer throughout the entire course! I like idiot proofed courses: )
The course was pretty flat for the most part with a few gentle climbs thrown in. We were literally kicking leaves during quite a few parts of the run...great name for it whoever picked it out! There was one waterstop with water and some unknown beverage that I was not going to try until the man gave it to me without telling me if it was water or something else...it was herbalife or something I finally found out after volunteers called it Gatorade and I could clearly tell it was not Gatorade. One of my pet peeves when running a race is a volunteer who either just gives you something without telling you if it's water or something else and a volunteer who tells you it's Gatorade or Powerade when it's something else like Barfima...(Ultima). For me...if I take something not on my "approved list"...it could cost me an unwanted trip to the biffy!
During the run I felt that sudden urge to pull over into the woods for a deposit. The feeling continued to grow and I even asked one volunteer if there was a bathroom...I started seeking out makeshift biffy spots in the woods to pull over to and then realized I was almost back at the transition area. My plan was to stop at the biffy but when I stopped running, the urge thankfully left my body.
After the run, which went ok once I warmed up...I even picked off a few people...I headed to my bike. I was wearing biking shorts and a long sleeved wicking shirt and had planned to put on mittens, biking gloves, change shirts and put on my yellow jacket...well, that all fell to the wayside ...I just grabbed my mountain bike, my helmet and took off! As a side note, I wore the socks I just purchased, a pair of bamboo wool ones from Jarrow's store after Lisa talked about them and affirmative...they are incredibly awesome!!
Yes...I have a road bike...yes..I chose to take the mountain bike instead...yes...it probably cost me at least 10-15 minutes if not more. I was being passed by men who were nearly 70 years old on road bikes...need I say more? I did pass quite a few people on Mt bikes so that was comforting!
We biked on a main highway with fast traffic whizzing by but the bike lane was thankfully very wide and newly paved. I felt extremely safe because there was a volunteer at virtually every road that a car could possibly come out of and police and volunteers at any intersection. Kudos to the race director for having so many great volunteers out there...I would have to say this course had more volunteers than any other race I've been to...they were all very friendly, encouraging, and doing their job well! In other bike/run events, I have almost been hit by cars because of a lack of volunteers and planning!
None of us could figure out how there could be a headwind both on the way out and the way back again. I thought I was imagining it until a few others said the same thing to me! There were quite a few participants wearing headphones with music turned up rather loudly. This was a problem on the bike portion as I or others would yell on your left and they would not hear us...even when next to or directly behind people they could not hear. I am thinking maybe the race directors should rethink headphones on a busy highway??
I went into the transition zone with no plan and then decided to shed the shirt and sunglasses along with the helmet. After the bike, I went onto the run again and wow was it ever tough to get those running legs back again! That interesting "urge" to make a deposit in the woods started to reoccur, my hip was really tight and a few other issues. After looking around and discovering the only two women anywhere near me were younger and older, I decided to stop and stretch a few times.
I finished the event in about 1:33, not too impressive...it was fun and short though. I'll be curious to see just how far back I was in the run and bike times when the results come out. I know I at least beat two women in my age group...I had the largest and most competitive age group as always too! The 60+ men had a rather competitive age group too!
After the race, we were treated to a free yummy meal of sloppy joes, chips, baked potatoes, pickles and cookies! How cool is that?!
The awards were held shortly after the final finishers came in. Awards consisted of really neat shaped bottles of Maple Syrup! The top female and male finishers got a basket of stuff. They also gave away some nice quilted things in a door prize drawing.
If you are new to biking and/or running or an old pro...this is an awesome low key event to do...it is easy, can be done as a team or individually, and the course is extremely user friendly!
Too much paved running on this course for me though so I'll go back to the Grand Traverse again next year. I'm still happy I did it this year!