We met some friends for the MN Nordic Opener at Elm Creek. It’s a fun free event for all ages and is a fun way to kick off ski season. I brought my classic skis and was regretting it until the very end when we tried some icy walked over mess of natural ski trail. We ended up with about 7k total on three different rounds of skiing.
An afternoon ski felt nice after a rough few days. It was just above freezing. The only good trails were the 1k loop. And there were at least 2 high schools there skiing. So the trails were kind of busy.
I got there early so that I could get all checked in and setup. I was expecting that they would close transition at some point, but it didn’t happen. So I got there early and got a good spot and had plenty of time to relax until the race briefing!
I had really struggled with making decisions about what to wear/bring and how to plan for nutrition etc. I also felt pretty nervous about the whole thing as I hadn’t trained as much as I wanted/needed to and just lacked confidence in my skiing abilities! I hadn’t actually biked that far yet either this year. The weather was pretty much perfect. It was in mid to high 20’s at the start of the race and the course was in pretty decent shape considering all the rain and melt we’ve experienced this week. I ended up making two last minute changes for my biking gear and that was a good decision! I was never really cold, but I would have been if I’d worn my running shoes and the gloves I wore for skiing.
I wore 3/4 length tights over a pair of tri shorts and Cirq knee length socks. Up top I wore a light Icebreakerz long sleeve under a Twin Six thermal bike jersey with the Loppet bib over top! I switched out my gloves and hat for each discipline so that I wouldn’t get too cold. For skiing I wore a pair of SealSkinz mid-weight gloves and my Loopet Loppet buff. For the bike I wore a nice pair of Dakine mittens and a ear band from the Twin Cities Marathon. For the run I just wore my Saucony Utili-mitt gloves – no hat!
This was not only my first winter triathlon, but also my first ski race ever! Fortunately we were able to self-seed, so I pretty much started in the back. We had to double pole for the first 100m or so and by the time I got there the pack was getting spread out pretty quickly. I know the trails fairly well so I knew where I would struggle and what was coming! The Meadow loop went pretty much as I expected. The nice corduroy trail was pretty much gone by the time I went by, but the sugary snow wasn’t too bad for most of it. I fell three different times which was annoying as they were all places I haven’t fallen before! Two of them were in turns and the third was downhill. The first time was on the way down the Northern Finger. I just had trouble shifting weight and making the turn at the speed I was going and got too far off into the edge and I think a ski just caught. I didn’t realize it but my watch got paused, so I missed about 10 minutes of the ski. I felt pretty good going back up the Finger hill and flew down and around the LaSquandra loop. The uphill back to the Upper Stadium wasn’t too bad today! The second time I fell was on the big downhill right before Coach’s Corner and I haven’t fall there since early in the year. I think that I had trouble with the speed and the looser snow and my ski got caught in a little bit of a rut and caught an edge. That was pretty bad, I think I rolled! I checked and re-started my watch this time! A few more hills and I was moving! I fell right in from of my family! Same thing, taking a turn a little tight going a little too fast and I lost my balance. Ugh. Checked the watch and off I went into the transition area! The results said my ski was 29:46 which is definitely the fastest I’ve ever skied the full loop!
Transitioned to the bike. As I was leaving transition the leader came flying by after finishing his first bike loop. The bike was three loops of the bike course. Lots of hills. I think I had a good setting for PSI in the tires about 5-6lbs. I’m still trying to figure that out, but I flew by a guy who was running a lot lower PSI and he was struggling. That really makes a big difference. I didn’t fall at all! I decided based on the weather to switch my tires for studded tires. I probably didn’t need them after all but it was at least one less thing to be nervous about! The trail was almost all loose snow by that point on the main part of the trail. I didn’t need to walk up any of the hills for the first two laps and only one hill on the third lap. I was a little worried about burning out my quads early, but that didn’t seem to matter too much. The looser snow made it a little bit harder in a few places. Since the bike was 3 loops it was hard to know what lap the people passing you were on, but I just kept pedaling away! There wasn’t a lot of people on the course, but there were a few volunteers and medical team members cheering us on as we went through. The one hill I ended up walking up was on the last lap on the Twin Lakes Trail and it was a quick downhill into an uphill. I couldn’t shift gears down fast enough and there was someone behind me so I couldn’t zigzag at all in the loose snow. Oh well. I’ve not ridden this far yet this season on the snow with my new bike so I was quite happy with it and it was almost twice as fast as when I’d been riding. Official bike time was 1:16:24 averaging 8.8mph.
I had hoped to not get passed again by the leader, as he was in transition when I started on a bike loop. Evidently that didn’t happen! I didn’t see him go by so it must have been while I was enjoying the two loops that were cut off the run loop! I high-fived the family as I set out on the run. I had one thick beard-cicle that kind of flopped around while I ran! This was the only time that it felt lonely out on the course. There were two guys in front of me and one behind me but after seeing them in the Meadow I never really saw them again until the finger. The course was deceiving because it would look like you were catching people while you were going downhill, but they’d be gone when you started on the uphill and slowed way down! After passing the run cutoff 4x’s it felt great to finally get to take it! And to cut out the hardest hill and a couple of short steep ones! I didn’t fall on the run at all!! The pictures definitely show me heel striking something I’ve been trying to work on. Honestly, though I haven’t been running much. I knew that the run would be ok though. My quads burned and climbing the hills wasn’t easy, but the hardest part was finding firm snow to run on. So much of it was loose that sometimes it felt more like running on sand! I saw someone on Jim’s hill that I might have been able to catch, but it wasn’t going to happen so I just finished my race! The run split was 27:35 8:55 pace.
My overall time was 2:18:22 which was good for 42/53 overall, 34/39 in the males and 5/5 in the 35-39 age group. The winner of course was in my age group! My ski and bike were both good enough for 41 overall, but my run was 33rd!! Obviously my strength!
My watch showed that I skied 2.58 miles in 22:25 (plus 10 minutes for and about a 1 mile when it was accidentally off, this also included transition). Biked 11.12 miles in 1:18 and ran 2.85 miles in 28 minutes.
This was a fun race!! I think as I continue to improve in my skiing it would get easier! The winner skied the loop in almost half my time!
I had been planning to bike, but the temps were right around 30 so I felt like it might be too warm to ride and not tear up the treadway. So I opted to ski instead. It was a nice morning to be out and there weren’t too many people yet. I did the regular loop, but when I got to the bottom of the North Finger Trail, they had the Judy Loop open. I’d never skiied it before and it wasn’t freshly groomed yet. It was an Advanced trail and I could see why. I ended up falling 3 times on it! They were all on tight turns at the bottom or in the middle of a hill! Despite falling it was a fun addition to the normal loop with some tough uphill sections too. Two of the times I fell my watch got turned off. I realized it quickly on the one, but not until it started going into autosave mode (so for several minutes) so I missed a good junk of the ski which you can tell when you compare the maps.
My watch said that I got 4.3 miles in 44 minutes. The official distance of the trails is just over 8k and I was closer to 55 minutes.
This morning I spent an hour on the trainer in the basement as the temps were like -12 with nasty windchill. While cold, the day was quite sunny. Even though the temps were hovering around the cancellation mark we had our last ski lessons today. Quite a few kids were out and we had a great ski. We ended up with about 3.6k of skiing as a group. After we finished I hit the trails for a quick loop and did about the same distance with the harder hills! Despite the wind it was a nice day to be outside!
Afterwards we celebrated the last day of ski lessons by having dinner with friends at the Cajun Twist at the Trailhead. I had the Nawlins Dog and everyone else split the rice and beans and Zeydeko Rice Bowl. Excellent food!