Thursday, February 10, 2011

City of Lakes Loppet - February 6, 2011

Dave, Bob, and Ed
I participated in the City of Lakes Loppet 33K Freestyle Nordic Race in Minneapolis, Minnesota on February 6, 2011.  The City of Lakes Loppet is a relatively new event but has grown to be the largest urban Nordic Ski Race in the United States with over 10,000 participants.

This was my first year at the loppet and I was pleasantly surprised that it was really more of a Winter Festival with several events including ice sculptures, a sprint ski race, children's races, an ice bicycling event, skijoring races, and a luminary tour on Saturday and then a 10K tour, 25K classic race, following by a 33K freestyle race on Sunday.  Really something for everyone.  There is a nice wrap-up video of the events on the City of Lakes Loppet YouTube site which you can watch here:

I met up with some fellow bicyclists, Dave Mathews and Bob Burns from Kansas City, who skied the 25K classic race and who have been coming to the event for three years now.  Dave and Bob left early in the Saturday morning from Kansas City and I late in the morning from La Crosse to get to the race in the early afternoon.  I interviewed Dave in Episode 10 of the Birkie Web Today Podcast regarding being a skier from an area of the country that does not usually receive a lot of snow and then how you train.

The registration experience was well organized in a large tent with a few local and national ski related vendors including Subaru, Swix, Solomon, Bolder Nordic Sport, and Midwest Mountaineering.  A full listing is on the City of Lakes Loppet Sponsor Page with links.

The skijoring 7K, 4.5K, and 2K events were a pure delight to watch on Saturday afternoon.  Besides some demos of skijoring at the American Birkebeiner Nordic Ski Race, I had not seen an actual race.  In the 7K there were some series racers with well trained sled type dogs and excellent skiers.  The 2K was hilarious as many folks just brought their dogs out and not all of them cooperated very well with one skier pushing his dog and a women that used her small Yorkie that you could hardly see bouncing along.  The video below does not capture all the fun but is a good recap.  I heard from a skier on Sunday that the skijoring events had been the largest ever in the United States and that seem to be confirmed by the wrap-up video above!

At the Starting Area
I had been waiting to finish up this post when the skier pictures were released but I have not seen any as yet, except for the elite skiers.  I did have another skier take my picture before my wave got off at the start area which is shown to the left.

I had very fast skis but the uphills were fairly beat up which made for some very heavy snow to skate through and many times I just had to herringbone.  The course was surprisingly hilly especially at the start and then again about midway through the race. The official map of the 33K course is shown below.
Many times it was hard for me to believe that I was in Minneapolis since there were several wooded areas and then going across several very beautiful lakes.  Towards the end it was nice seeing the skyline of the city then skiing across I-394 was very interesting seeing the high speed traffic below.  There were plenty of super nice volunteers with lots of water and food.  As usual I had the energy and water drinks but brought my own gel food which I had at each of the four stops.

My official time for the 33K Freestyle race was 3:37:12 so quite slow but, as always, I just love being out in the winter and enjoying the outdoors.  Dave had a time of 2:17:46 and Bob 3:07:14 for the 25K.

The temperature for the race pretty much stayed around -3 C so it was very comfortable for skiing.  My Garmin showed only 31.31K and a faster time.  As can be seen below I found a way to embed the map from Garmin Connect which I will incorporate into future posts too.

I highly recommend this event as there is something for everyone and very well organized all the way around.

I added this photo on February 13th as Dave posted it on his Facebook page.  This was a hill that many other skiers fell on so I must have  had a smile since I navigated through it!

Personalized videos of the race were also released by RaceDay on February 16th where each participant can enter their number and see themselves ski past checkpoints in the race.  My personalized video is below.