The First Wave of the American Birkebeiner

Three guys roller ski

Posted on: November 8th, 2015 by tony No Comments


Dale and Dave  invited me for some roller ski action at Carver Park this morning. It was a blast. I had never roller skied on the Carver trails nor had I roller skied with either of these guys. In the two hours we skied, I listened to a new batch of ski training and racing stories as I learned the nuances of a new trail. I heard about skiing 24 Hours At Telemark and the Afton area 50km roller ski training sessions (these guys don't mind suffering).

The Carver Park trails are perfect, long gradual hills up for a nice mix of kick-double poling and striding. Long gradual downs with straight run-outs no need to break your speed (almost). - I'm not always rock-steady on roller skis. A downhill with a blind curve always makes me nervous even when I'm told "No need to break on this one, there's a nice runout.".

Anyway, I skied for about 2.25 hours (including a couple water stops and a stop for a Cliff Bar) and called it a morning. Dale and Dave headed out for another hour or so. Right now I think two hours feels like a good amount of time to roller ski for me. After my three-hour roller ski two weeks ago I felt gimpy for a couple days. After biking with my son, Mike, last Sunday, for 50-60 miles, I felt like pretty worn for a while as well.

Cutting weight

Posted on: October 26th, 2015 by tony No Comments




Every ounce matters.

To qualify for the first wave of the Birkie I am going to have to reduce weight and distractions anywhere I can. Mountaineer, Mark Twight (author of Kiss or Kill), advocated for climbers to cut their hair short so they could focus on what's really important. Which, I imagine, is finding the next hand-hold and not falling to their deaths.


Mark Twight is also famous for his quote

"It doesn't have to be fun to be fun."


Thursday I received a short and affordable cut at Aveda Institute by a level two student. My best guess is a total of 3.5 grams (about a tenth of an ounce) of hair were removed from my head. The weight alone is not a be deal, but as Twight might have told me 'Cut that damn hair and get cranking on those skis.'

The Longest Roller Ski of My Life

Posted on: October 26th, 2015 by tony No Comments


long-rollerski-ajaxThis morning I met Tom Ajax on the Cedar Lake Trail for what ended up as a 20-mile roller ski. For three hours, we double poled and kicked down the Minneapolis bike trails as we shared ski stories and training ideas.



Tony + Tom

Tom told me how local coach Piotr Bednarski encourages long workouts at an easy level one heart rate. So that’s what we did. Tom set the pace to his level one and I followed. It was a speed a bit slower than I normally train. This leads me to believe that I workout in level two, which may not be optimal for me. More about heart rates and training below.


We headed east on the Cedar Lake Trail, side-by-side. Did I tell you how nervous I was about this workout? Very nervous. I've skied with Tom on snow and it's always a challenge to stay with him. Tom is already a first wave Birkie skier, and he has skied the Norwegian Birkebienner and the Swedish Vasaloppet. I was glad it was going to be a long slow workout. This way I had a chance of keeping up. We followed the trail under the Twins' Target Field, through downtown Minneapolis, to the Mississippi River, turned North, followed trails and roads along the river all the way to the 694 bridge, button hooked at the trail’s end, back to Camden, up Victory Memorial Parkway, south on Wirth Parkway, and home.


Tom’s technique is better than mine (both double poling and striding) and watching him helped me think about my own technique. For the first half of the workout, I tried to imitate Tom.


I felt good for most of the three hours it took to do the loop. A banana and a Cliff bar helped. (Full disclosure: Tom gave me the Cliff bar at a rest stop. It turns out, I came to this dance ill-prepared with only water and a banana.) As we got further into the workout it became harder to think about technique and it became harder to bend my knees as my legs grew tired and stiff.


Back home, after the ski, I was tired, hungry and happy to have completed my longest roller ski workout.



You may already know all about heart rate levels. But it’s not that clear to me, so I needed to do a little research and jot it down here.


Heart rate levels are helpful in training effectively. Most athletes train with a mixture of long slow distance (low heart rate)  and short high-speed (high heart rate) workouts. In my tiny amount of research, I have not found a consensus in exactly how to apply heart rate levels to a training plan. Athletes at all levels approach this in a zillion ways.

Heart rate levels are based on your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR).

Two ways to determine your Maximum Heart Rate:

  1. Take 220 minus your age.
  2. Run on a treadmill (or exercise another way) for 15-20 minutes, then at the end really sprint hard for 1-2 minutes. Whatever your heart rate shows at the end of that sprint, add another 5 beats per minute.


Heart Rate Levels look like this
Level 5 - 90% of MHR
Level 4 - 80% of MHR
Level 3 - 70% of MHR
Level 2 - 60% of MHR
Level 1 - 50% of MHR