Monday, March 15, 2010

A ski-centric weekend—without much skiing: Birkie Movie

The first in a three-part series

Conditions have deteriorated dramatically in the last week (Wirth is skiable on the snowmaking but it's wet and slushy; I might go over for one last ski in the sun this afternoon). As I type the mercury is pushing 60 with bright sunshine. However, this does not mean that skiing is not the center of my life right now. Far from it.

Last week, I found out, by email, about a Birkie video which was being put together by Scott Brown called "A Day in February." Scott's a guy I match up against pretty well, it seems, and who skis with a camera on his head. It turns out that in addition to taking video of some races, he's also filmed training, talked to the Birkie Folks, filmed waxing, filmed stonegrinding, filmed his buddies skiing across a plowed Mosquito Brook Road and such. And after a two weeks of editing, he compiled it all in to a feature-length film. It was to be shown for one night only at the theater in Hayward. Friday night. 7:30.

I told him I'd love to come but didn't really want to drive that far and asked if he knew anyone else going up for just the movie. He did. Problem solved. So I skipped out of work, headed up Dale and 35E and met Eric around WBL to carpool up to Hayward. Traffic was free until just after Highway 8, when it ground to a halt. We rolled towards the next exit at about 10 mph, and discussed what to do. I reached back and grabbed the Minnesota DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer which was rattling around the back seat, and saw that if we got off at the next exit we could cut diagonally across to Highway 8 and get away from the traffic. "If this works," I announced, "we'll be there by 7:20." Always trust a geographer.

And it did. We rolled in to the theater in Hayward and were in the door at 7:26. There was little rush. The lobby was filled with assorted dignitaries, none of whom I recognized in street clothes. I had to ask who Scott Brown, the star of the show, was, as I'm used to seeing him with a camera atop his head. We finally found our seats by around 7:45 and the show was on.

The picture was great. For a guy who just bought a video camera, Scott put on quite a show. It had a feeling of a kind-of hokey documentary, but in a good way. It'd serve as a good introduction for those of us who take skiing a little too seriously to show to our friends and family. "See! This is what stonegrinding is! And this is how you wax." (Because of the music, Scott can't distribute the film. Too bad.)

But the best parts were on snow. Early-season on a barely-snowed-in Birkie. (I've done that.) Training at 5 a.m. at Elm Creek—below 0. (I've done that, well, not at Elm Creek.) The Loppet. The Pre-Birkie. And then the main show. Standing at the line—I felt like I was right back in Cable—was almost eerie; my heart started pounding and my stomach felt just like it did on race day, even though it was 45˚ outside and the snow was all but gone.

And the footage of the race was great. I saw myself several times (my form looks off—I should get the raw footage of the race from Scott to analyze) and confirmed that I only lost to Scott because my skis had slowed down by the end of the race, as he passed me on the last downhill. While I didn't see myself up Main Street, I did see myself go to get my finisher pin at the end.

Then the film shifted to Scott interviewing skiers at Mosquito Brook. Folks who'd finish in five or six hours (the winner was under two). The guy who said if he fell one more time he was sitting down right there. He finished. For anyone who thinks that most people ski like us guys near the front—these folks were the true Birkie skiers. I was done with my lake-on cheering by the time they came through.

After the flick, we went to the Angry Minnow for dinner and a beer. I was driving, so a beer. (Oh, also, you can by beer at the theater. I love Wisconsin.) It was a nice gathering, I got to meet the director of the Birkie, Ned Zuelsdorff, who's a real nice guy. I complimented him for his race, trail and grooming, he seemed to like my numbers. Although he said that my elevation profile had caused some uproar in their office. Well, they should publish better ones if they have 'em. Now I'm tentatively scheduled to bike the course this spring with a GPS.

After an hour or so, and a chat with Olympian Garrott Kuzzy (yup, that's who hangs out in Hayward; he was drinking 7-Up), Eric and I piled in the car for the traffic- (and deer-) free drive back to the Cities. I was in bed by the early hour of 2. Nothing to do tomorrow. Oh, wait

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