Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Tale of Two Birkies

As promised, here is the rest of the update from the previous post.

Upon arriving home from Sweden, it was back to work for a few days and then straight into Birkie Week here in Edmonton. If you are not familiar with the Birkie legend (and associated Birkie fever) you can check out some additional info here - legend info; fever info.

The Canadian Birkie
Conditions for the Canadian Birkie were ideal with warm air temperatures and rocket fast, glazed tracks. Klister was the order of the day and our solution was as follows:

Base - Swix LF4 (huge ups to Will and Tyla for laying down nearly all of the base work)

Race paraffin - Solda F31 Violet (despite the warm temperatures, this was killing everything else as a result of the ultra transformed snow)

Powder - Swix FC78

Top Coat - Ski*Go C44 solid (hand corked)

Structure - Holmenkol cross tool (both drums in)

Kickwax binder - Guru green klister, ultra thin

Kickwax - Guru Extreme klister / Rode Fast Violet klister, mixed 50/50

Ultimately, if Fast Trax didn't make your race skis, they weren't as fast as they could have been. I have quantifiable evidence that this is the case. Fact.

The American Birkie

Earlier this week I headed to Hayward, WI to do ski service at the American Birkie. Guys, I hate to say it, but their version of the race destroys ours. Smoother organization, a killer expo that the ski companies actually attend, live coverage of the race as it unfolds on the radio, and ten times (literally) as many participants.

Conditions for this Birkie were very different than the Canadian edition. Temperatures were in the -20 range with a fine layer of new snow.

Base - Ski*Go LF graphite

Race paraffin - Holemnkol Matrix Black/Blue

Powder - Holmenkol mid/mid 02, mixed 70/30

Top Coat - Ski*Go C105 solid (hand corked)

Kickwax binder - Guru green klister, ultra thin

Once again, I'm confident that the skis were ridiculous. Actually, based on the number of beers people bought as at the after party, I'd say there is no possible way they weren't fantastic. Overall, a great trip. 

One of the coolest things about the American Birkie is the fact that it finishes on the main street of Hayward. Yup, they groom right into town - so cool. Also, the crowds are out of control and line the entire street (both sides) four people deep. Such huge support for the Birkie here.
Our accommodations for the weekend - not a military hostel!
Nope, not a military hostel at all.

Finally you are all up to speed as to what has gone on. From here I head back on the road with the AWCA to take in the Sharkfest Alberta Cups (Canmore), Canadian Nationals (Canmore), and the US Super Tour finals (Sun Valley, ID).

Patrick, Madeleine, and Jack - Team Fast Trax at the Olympics. This is what all the work is for.

The Rest of Sweden and two Birkies

A lot has happened since we left off. At that point, I had just arrived in Sweden after having powered through some travel difficulties. Let's pick it up there...

The Rest of Sweden
All of the best parts of the Sweden trip happened after my last post. The race service was a lot of fun and we had some excellent results.

By the time we started driving to Sundsvall, I had been up for a long time and was pretty tired. I guess sleep came pretty quickly in the car.
Robin Bryntesson and Fredrik Bystrom skied fast in the team sprint (see below).
The arrival in Sweden was a whirlwind. After finally getting my bag, Erik and I drove for two hours to Sundsvall where the races were held (that was Tuesday, I think). The next day was the team sprint and being that we hadn't done any testing or set up the wax cabin, we were on site early. Luckily, the race was in the afternoon so we had time to get organized, test, and make race skis. That was a really great night as our two athletes, Robin Bryntesson and Fredrik Bystrom, won the race. As a prize, they brought us princess cake, which is a typical Swedish dessert. We didn't have knives, so we cut it with a scraper. This cake is amazing - you should Google it and be impressed.
Because of his excellent results, and some time of odd bet, Robin's teammates made him race in a wig. Apparently last year Britta had to race with her wind briefs outside of her race suit. Awesome.
This picture is from the women's pursuit race on the following day (click to zoom in). These are the leaders of the race with Anna Haag (202), Charlotte Kalla (201), and Britta Norgren-Johansson (204) - all Swedish Olympians in 2010. This was not a soft field. Britta was one of my athletes for the week and she went on to be named to the Swedish World Championships team and is racing in Oslo this week.
We stayed in this sort of odd military hostel for the week. It's been a while since I've slept in a dorm room, especially at a race! However, we were the only ones in the place and the kitchen facilities were excellent (see later picture).
This is where we slept.
We didn't go hungry. This was lunch.

Despite my caption above, everyone was worried that I was going hungry. This is my third helping of eggs and potatoes and the crew wouldn't have it any other way. Ski racing is terrible for my shape.

The cool thing about being at Swedish nationals is that the whole event is exactly like a World Cup. All of the same athletes are there and the manufacturers all have a massive presence.

2011-2012 Salomon skate skis as spotted outside the Salomon wax cabin. Very cool

This is where we worked for the week. Just enough space for three technicians and four athletes.
We tested some wax from time to time. Actually, we tested a lot of wax, all of the time. Here is the download from my heart rate monitor - Garmin Connect. Click on the "player" link on the top-right and you will see what I mean.
Swix test powders. Most of the powders we tested are not available for retail purchase.

Fluro products.

Jack's Pack - AT work (in Sweden).

The weekend races were broadcast live on national television.

There were TV cables all over the place. For an interesting read on the logistics of broadcasting a ski race, check out this article - 19 Miles of Cable.

People didn't just watch the races on TV. I couldn't believe the size of the crowds lining the trails. Admission to get into the races was about $15 CAD per day.

The crowd streaming towards the stadium.

Sweden has a massive truck that travels to the races to support the national team. Super cool.

This is what the inside of the truck looks like. It wasn't clear to me that taking a photo was allowed, so this is a promotional shot from Craft.

Fast Trax in Sweden. No big deal.

And again...
Race service is hard work. You do get to wear these sweet pants, though.
The final night in Sundsvall. The prospect of more princess cake (and a shower) woke me right up. Boom.
Nearly done packing the wax cabin at the end. Sweet trip.
There were no travel mishaps on the way home. Also, the Stockholm airport has hardwood floors - fact.
Trans Atlantic flights with Air Canada now feature mood lighting that changes colour. The purple version is illustrated here to mediocre effect.
The flight home. See that empty seat beside me? It stayed that way the entire time. Optimal for best sleeping.

Are you still with me? This turned out to be a big post, so I decided to move the Birkie discussion into the next instalment. You should check it out.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Made it to Sweden - just barely

It's been about 25 hours since I left my house and I finally just made it to Ostersund, more or less on schedule.

Here is a bit of what happened so far:

My test fleet with bindings finally mounted and stickers applied. Looking forward to getting these on the snow.

The temperature in Edmonton this morning. It is currently +1C in Ostersund.

The morning started off really well. After an easy trip to the airport, I checked in with tons of time. Air Canada was able to check my bags all the way through to Ostersund, despite this requiring two baggage tags.

My ride to Calgary. Loud, but pretty fast.

I put my compression socks on in Calgary. This was the first time I've travelled with them, and I'd say they worked really well. Marcelo is not crazy,

My ride to Frankfurt. I love flying Lufthansa.

So... things were going well, right up until I got on the plane in Calgary. There was a kid in my seat who wanted to trade for his spot in the middle of the big centre row. I had a window seat, which I prefer for sleeping. Obviously, I was having none of his plan and evicted him promptly. Boom.

The flight to Frankfurt was smooth and I had tons of time to make my connection to Stockholm. Sadly, however, this is where things really went wrong. I sat down at my gate and started to read. Eventally, everyone stood up to get on the plane, so I did too. Unfortunatley, I noticed that the sign read "Oslo" and not Stockholm - disaster. Upon checking my boarding pass, I was to be at gate A38 for my flight. I had been sitting at A40 the next one over.

I raced to the counter but it was too late. Apparently, they had called my name and everything, but between my tired state, the reading, and the accents, I just didn't notice.

After a little bit of sorting out issues (and catching a train to another terminal), I spent 75 tense minutes with the Air Canada people while they attempted to switch my flight. It was complicated as I had a connection to make in Stockholm that left little room for error.

Once the lady got everything sorted out, I had to sprint to securtiy, get whisked to the front of the line, and then sprint to the gate.

Due to the tight timeline in Stockholm, the process basically repeated. I sprinted through security and was the last one on the plane.

The bottom line is that I am here, but my bags definitely are not. It sounds like they should show up tonight, so fingers crossed!

Tomorrow is a team sprint (classic) so that should lead to some good adventures. Not sure what my internet situation will be going forward, but I'll try to keep everyone up to date.

(sorry about the terrible spelling in this post - I had to do this in a huge hurry and the Swedish spell check is not helpful)