Former Kongsbergers Sandy Schreyer and Ted Lystig tackled the 42k Seeley Hills classic this weekend, right on the Birkebeiner trails. Sandy sent me this fun report on her race, and promises to provide on-the-spot snow reports as we get closer to Birkie Day. Right now it's looking bleak, but we can hope for a snowier tomorrow -- thanks for the report, Sandy!
Seeley Hills Classic race: January 14, 2012
The Seeley Hills Classic race was held this last weekend in the Cable/Hayward area of Wisconsin. The 42 km race is informally considered the classic ski championship of the Midwest and as such, it brings out some of the best racers of the region.
For those of you familiar with the American Birkebeiner race course, this event will feel somewhat familiar. It starts at 00 road (the finish for the Korteloppet in earlier days) and heads north on the classic Birkie trail. After about 11 km, the route swings back south on the birkie Skate trail. After crossing 00 road, the course continues south on the birkie Skate trail for 11 km and then turns back around for the finish. The course has hills. Many hills. Two of the big hills come right at the beginning which makes for an interesting start. There are very few places where there is sustained double poling (a bummer for me as I’ve become the double pole queen via training for the Swedish Vasaloppet) and the course demands efficient striding technique.
In addition, it is critical to get the kick wax right. I was able to pass a number of racers who were clearly better athletes but who also had no kick. I could hear them working way too hard during the uphills. I would think that for an event this long, they would know that it is worth the 2 minutes it takes to slap on some different wax rather than put themselves through 3 hours of agony, not to mention the hip flexor pain the following day from too many times of sliding out.
The conditions this year were a little strange, but we were happy that the event was even held. Hayward has had minimal snow so far this season and until the Wednesday before the race, it looked like they’d have to cancel. Fortunately, they got about 3-5 inches of fresh snow that was tilled into the 0.5 inch of rock hard snow/dirt. Even though the start temperature was quite cold (10 deg F), the high moisture of the snow dictated that a warmer wax was needed. Too often we’ve made the mistake of trying to force the kick wax to match the air temperature rather than going with what actually works. The snow was surprisingly abrasive so most participants expected to rewax somewhere along the course. While my wax was clearly wearing by the last 10 km, there was just enough combination of kick (at least out of the tracks) and arm wax left to get through to the finish.
To be fair however, by the end, it was not beautiful skiing. I kept thinking of the time Ozzie was watching me try to classic at Cabin Creek and he said “I’d hate to try to do 30 km looking like that.” Well, Ozzie, you would have said the same thing if you’d seen my last 5 km in this event. Regardless, both Ted and I knocked about 20 minutes off our times from last year with respective finish times of 2:40 and 3:05. The winners were a husband and wife team familiar to the Winthrop racing family: Brian and Caitlin Gregg. We got to talk with them after the race and they are not only stellar skiers, but about the nicest couple you’d get to meet. It was good fun sharing stories about the WA ski scene and comparing racing in the Midwest vs Northwest.
For those of you planning on coming to the Birkebeiner, we will try to post snow conditions to the blog as the time gets closer. While they had just enough snow to hold this race, there were sections that required jumping out of the tracks to avoid dirt sections and I can’t imagine it could handle 9000 skiers at this point.