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Today was "Visitor's Day" at Julia's preschool: every kid was allowed to bring one visitor to spend the day doing all the stuff you do at preschool. Happily, she chose me as her visitor, and I duly had a great time. We started and ended the day with songs, which were charming to hear from eight 3-year-old voices, and then pretty much just played and read books. Mostly, Julia being Julia, we read books. She did love to show me around the three rooms, and I think she liked having me at her elbow while she watched other kids do this or that - watching being the second-place activity after reading. We even got to split a small bag of Goldfish crackers. The preschool is, clearly, a wonderful place to be a kid, mixing a huge variety of toys, books, and other activities - big enough that no kid could really run out of things to do.


I was working on an Excel file this evening at one computer while Shannon worked at the other computer, on which I'd already opened an Excel file. Suddenly, up popped a window saying that the number of users of MS Office applications had exceeded the number of licenses for Office and please click here for more information. As I did so, Excel shut down, thankfully saving my doc on the way out.


Reading the clicked-through content on Microsoft's "Mactopia" site, I discover that MS Office is not only a crummy set of office-work applications, but a little bit of spyware that's using my home network against me:

"Microsoft Office searches the network for other installations of Office that are using the same product ID. If it finds one, it displays a message. Office displays this message when it detects another computer on the network that is running a copy of Office and has the same product ID as your copy of Office. Generally, running duplicate copies of Office on more than one computer is not permitted by the Office software license terms. The license terms for Office allow you to install your licensed copy of Office on a single computer, such as a desktop computer or workstation. The license terms also allow you, as the primary user of that computer, to install a second copy on your portable computer, such as a laptop, for your own personal use. If you are running your licensed copy of Office on both a desktop computer and a portable computer at the same time, and both computers are connected to the same network, you will see this message."

So I had to quit the other Excel file in order to reopen the one on my computer. What a sleazy little operation, especially because in fact I am using the application on just two machines - my old laptop (call it Desky) and my new one (Porty). I love MIcrosoft.

Night and Day

When I biked home around 4:30 p.m. on Monday, the air temperature was about 37, and 10-mph gusts were pushing the windchill down into the teens. 24 hours later, I biked home in -8 temperatures, and insane 25-mph winds were pushing the windchill down past -40. On the plus side, it was a westerly wind, so I had it at my back.

Bill Demong: Good Skier

Amidst my frenzy of blogging about the cross-country skiing World Cup, I haven't mentioned America's most successful nordic skier: Bill Demong, who is, as they say, "killing it" in an even more obscure sport, nordic combined.

NC mixes two rather technically opposite disciplines: ski jumping and XC skiing. Typically, the longer the jump, the more head start (or other kind of time-or-distance advantage) you get in the race. The thing is, though, the kind of person who can jump a long way (skinny, short) isn't the kind of person who can ski fast (taller, more muscular). But Demong is among the fastest skiers, and as such has made it onto the podium five times this season (one bronze, three silvers, and a gold).  Just about two-thirds of the way through the season, Demong ranks second in the nordic combined World Cup standings, within striking distance of leader Ronny Ackermann (GER). Demong does better in races longer than the 7.5km norm, and it just so happens that five of the remaining nine races are at the 10km and 15km distances. Odds are good, in other words, that Demong - who won a silver in the long race at last year's World Championships - might win the overall.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

I have skied in blowing snow, snow flurries, snow showers, and even a blizzard or two. I have rollerskied and run in windstorms, rain showers, and even snow flurries. Until tonight, I had never skied in the rain, though. Verdict: unpleasant.

A Weekend in January

Maybe it was because this weekend was a great break from the bonechilling weather of the preceding week, maybe it was because we had a lot of fun stuff to do, maybe it was both: this was a good couple of days. Besides the fun of my "race" at Saturday noon, we took a great snow-hike before dinner later that day, had a wonderful Sunday-morning visit from some too-rarely-seen and much-missed friends who are soon to become parents, and then added a cherry on the top with sledding in the Arb. No weekend's so good that it can't be improved with a little sledding. 


Julia and Genevieve are on the right, their friends C. and L. on the left. Despite appearances, Vivi is not asleep - in fact, she was here contemplating some mischief, such as slyly removing her mittens and boots. It was warm, but not that warm. All four munchkins loved the ride down a semi-steep hill a few minutes after this picture was taken.

"Race" Report

Thursday, I found out about a cross-country ski event in the Arb, a benefit for the Northfield high school team. It would be the on-snow equivalent of a fun run, but the word on the tracks was that a few people were going to go a little faster - not quite a race, but maybe a "race," and a bit of a warmup for the City of Lakes Loppet next weekend. Shannon was nice enough to indulge my desire to participate (even though the event would cut me out of the whole lunch-and-nap routine), so I headed over to the Arb to register and ski.

It was about 20 degrees and brilliantly sunny, which only added to my triple happiness to help the team with $10 (and took home a tin of trail mix as a door prize, to boot), to learn that the whole high-school team would be out on course cheering and keeping everyone on the right tracks, and to see that a half-dozen others toed the start line when the team's coach, Dan Kust, said that "racers" should be at the front of the field. I was next to a couple Carls who were kitted out in the college club's racing suits, and they were next to some guys with some rather high-end equipment - you know, sunglasses that cost more than my skis, bindings, boots, and poles.  I didn't know the exact course, but having skied pretty much every inch of the Arb this winter I didn't think I'd be surprised by any part of the course. Checking my heart rate as I stood on the line, I was a bit surprised to see it up past 150, which is about where it usually is during a relatively hard uphill. Just as I was reminding myself that this was only a little "race" in the Arb, ready set go and we were off.

The undergrad right next to me went to the front right away, and I, trying to keep clear of others' skis and poles, slotted in behind him. He slowed but kept up a steady pace when we hit the first uphill, then pulled away a bit on the downhill at the 1-kilometer mark - faster skis than mine. At the bottom, though, I caught right back up to him, as did another guy right behind me. We formed a little group up the next incline and around a sharp left-hand corner. I knew that the tracks were narrowing, so I just hung in, trying to avoid stepping on his skis but getting my own poles stepped on a couple times. After a couple tight corners, we went up the steepest hill a bit more slowly than I expected, and the leader's poling started to get uneven - a sign that he was tiring. It was too narrow to pass safely, though, so I continued to sit on as we went up and down a couple of rollers at the 2k mark, then down a long easy slope and onto an equally long flat straightaway.

He bobbled more as we passed through a tricky little S-curve, missing a couple pole plants, and I asked if he wanted me to go through. No answer, so I stayed in place. The third-place guy was still right there with us. Finally, we left the narrow trails and started a brief section where I could make a move. I told him I was going through and then squeezed past right where I wanted to, at the top of a hill. A couple hard skates let me put a few meters on him, which was a relief - I was worried about getting a pole tip in the face. It sounded like at least one more person went past him, too, but I concentrated on the corner at the bottom of the downhill - also the 3k mark. Skating through that right-hander, I knew I was approaching a steep but short ramp, so I took a couple deep breaths and focused on making a good transition up the hill. I had a bit more energy than I thought, though, and zoomed up it rather more easily than I expected.

A sharp left turn at the top of the slope let me check where number 2 was - just a few meters behind, but still working up the hill. I switched back to my fastest skating stroke, aware that we still had to go up a long but relatively gentle uphill. I still didn't feel too tired, but my pulse was up over 170, so I pulled back a bit as I went up the slope. This section ended in a rather nasty lefthand corner against the grain of the top of the hill, but I managed it alright. A quick check behind me showed that number 2 was well behind now. I could see the rest of the course now, so I focused on relaxing and skiing steadily. The final straightaway came up pretty quickly, and zoom I was done. First place for the "race"! It wasn't exactly stiff competition, but it was a good warmup for the City of Lakes, and it was lot of fun, too. The team coach announced that the event raised nearly $1000 for the team, which is a lot of wax and skis and trips to Biwabik.

(On the downside, or maybe just in the "numb hands + adrenaline = lack of awareness" side, I clenched my right pole so hard that I popped a seam in my fingertip, which then bled right through my glove and onto my grip:



Canmore Freestyle Sprints - "Liveblogging"

Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, this evening I can actually watch the video of this afternoon's 1.1km freestyle sprint event in Canmore, Alberta - the last event of the Canmore World Cup week. Today's course is less hellacious than Wednesday's classic sprint course, but it still does have a hard hairpin toward the end and the same "false flat" uphill to the finish line, as well as two sharp up-and-downs in the first half of the course - early enough that they won't be decisive, but hard enough that they will really hurt the skiers. The qualifications went well for the North Americans, with Kikkan Randall, Andy Newell, Torin Koos, and Minneapolis native Garrott Kuzzy making it into the rounds for the U.S. along with several Canadians, including Sara Renner and Olympic champion Chandra Crawford.  Crawford and Newell qualified second, showing that they're in good form today. Without a podium spot so far this week, the American and Canadian teams are going to be going great guns to race well today, and my picks are accordingly homer-ish:
women's sprint
1. Arianna Follis (ITA)
2. Justyna Kowalczyk (POL)
3. Kikkan Randall (USA)

men's sprint
1. Tor Arne Hetland (NOR)
2. Andy Newell (USA)
3. Bjoern Lind (SWE)

women's sprint
quarterfinals In heat 1, Finns Virpi Kuitunen and Pirjo Muranen lead from the start, effectively blocking everyone else all the way to the line and moving forward to the semifinals. Trying to make up for a poor start, Justyna Kowalczyk pushed too hard, crashing into another racer, knocking herself out of the day's racing, and ending her streak of consecutive streaks at three - not a bad trip to Canada! Arianna Follis and Natalia Matveeva easily advanced in a much less crashy heat 2. In heat 3, Kikkan Randall faced a very strong field in her attempt to win a second consecutive freestyle sprint event. She started well, hitting the first corner and hill well and then leading the other five racers up the second hill and around the hairpin. Behind her, some poor cornering by the others only gave Randall a bigger gap to the straightaway, and she zoomed over the line in first, ahead of German Stefanie Boehler. In heat 4, Canadian hope Crawford vied with world sprint champion Astrid Jacobsen (NOR); Crawford's dad was one of the cameramen at the finish line. Crawford took the lead right away, trying to duplicate her friend Randall's tactic of leading all the way. But the lead changed several times as they approached the hairpin, where Crawford intelligently went wide and then jumped from fourth to first with a great descent and fast skis. Pulling up slightly at the finish, she let Jacobsen take first, but still qualified for the semis. In the last heat, Sara Renner jumped out to an early lead, gave it up, and then following Petra Majdic - the winner of Wednesday's classic sprint - down the hill. On the straightaway, Renner pushed hard to get back into the lead but instead faded just enough to let Italian Magda Genuin nip her for second.

semifinals The first heat in the semis featured three Finns, including the fastest qualifier, Kuitunen, as well as Arianna Follis. Steffi Boehler wiped out on the opening straightaway, reducing the field and making it even easier for the trio of Finns to dominate the race. Again, though, the hairpin was key, reshuffling the line such that only Pirjo Muranen could hold her position. She finished first, going through to the large final along with Arianna Follis. The speed of the heat allowed both Natalia Matveeva and Virpi Kuitunen to earn "lucky loser" spots in the final. The other semi included both Kikkan Randall and Chandra Crawford, but the two North Americans had to vie against Petra Majdic and Astrid Jacobsen. A quick start put Crawford into the lead, but she ceded that spot on the back of the course, letting Italian Magda Genuin go to the front and then popping out to freeskate to the win. Randall could only muster fourth, behind Majdic.

finals In the small final, Kikkan Randall used the first hill to move into the lead, then let Petra Majdic go forward on the second hill so as to catch a little draft from the big Slovenian. Randall let her get away on the finishing stretch, but held on to second to finish eighth on the day. The large final was the day's big event for the Canmore fans, for it included hometown girl Chandra Crawford. She had to face two Finns (Kuitunen and Muranen), two Italians (Genuin and Folis), and Russian Matveeva. Crawford overcame a first-step stumble to go first into the initial corner. Muranen went around on the first hill, but Crawford drafted well and picked a good line through that dangerous hairpin. Gliding better than everyone else, Crawford zoomed into the lead and then blasted away from the field with a huge surge to take the handy win in front of Muranen and Genuin. A great day for Crawford: her first-ever World Cup win in front of her hometown fans.

men's sprint
quarterfinals The first heat saw two Canadians, Drew Goldsack and Devon Kershaw, faced the number-one qualifier, Emil Joenssen. On the straightaway to the finish, Goldsack jumped around the second-placed racer to close on Joenssen and take second. Heat 2 included American Torin Koos. An early crash put a dangerous Norwegian at the back of the field, and Koos smartly stayed clear to join the rush to the line. He couldn't quite keep up with Josef Wenzl (GER) and Christoph Eigenmann (SUI), though, and finished third - but then went through as one of the "lucky losers" with the fastest racers who didn't finish 1 or 2. The next heat was perhaps the day's strongest, featuring Olympic champions Bjoern Lind (SWE), Cristian Zorzi (ITA), and Tor Arne Hetland (NOR). Lind took the holeshot through the first corner and maintained a lead over the back of the course. Swinging around the hairpin, Canadian Phil Widmer tried to get back on terms, but Ivan Ivanov (RUS) surged around Lind for the win. Heat 4 pitted two Americans against each other: sprint ace Andy Newell and rising all-rounder Garrott Kuzzy. The field went four abreast up the two hills, but on sorted out on the descent. Newell was bounced outside on the hairpin and blocked on the straightaway, relegating him to fifth. But Garrott Kuzzy recovered from a poor start to take third, a great showing. In the last quarterfinal, three Norwegians tried to make up for an overall poor day by the country's racers. Instead, two Russians - Michail Devjatiarov and Nikolay Morilov led over the back of the course. A concerted push by the Norwegians at the hairpin failed (and led to a big crash), and the Russians advanced.

semifinals Torin Koos had a remach with Wenzl and Eigenmann in the first semi, which also included Bjoern Lind. One false start restrained the skiers when the race actually started, and the field remained bunched all the way into the haripin. Sloppy cornering by Bjoern Lind knocked both himself and Eigenmann out of the race, allowing Emil Joenssen and Josef Wenzl to take the two sure-thing spots in the final. Koos avoided that trouble, but couldn't move up into third, which went to Canadian Drew Goldsack. The other semifinal slotted surprising American Garrott Kuzzy in with three Russians and two Finns. One Russian inexplicably fell on the backstretch, setting up a three-way photofinish between Finn Matias Strandvall and Russians Nikolay Morilov and Vassili Rotchev, who all went through to the final. Stuck at the back for almost the whole race, Kuzzy couldn't move up and was relegated to the small final.

finals The small final featured three North Americans, but the favorite was Bjoern Lind. The Swede clearly tried to lead from wire to wire, but some bumping on the backstretch prevented him from accomplishing that goal. Instead, Christoph Eigenmann snuck around the hairpin to lead all the way to the finish line. Michail Devjatiarov came across well back in second, and then the Minnesotan Garrott Kuzzy capped a memorable day by surging to third in the heat, ninth on the day - a fantastic way to end his first experience racing on the World Cup. The large final was another Russian-studded affair, with three blue-clad racers vying against number-one qualifier Joensson, Finn Strandvall, and Josef Wenzl. Joenssen led all the way to the hairpin, which he handled well and used to lengthen a small lead. On the finishing straightaway, he simply accelerated away from everyone else, forcing a big charge for second. A three-way photofinish gave second to Ivan Ivanov, third, to Nikolay Morilov, and fourth to Matias Strandvall.

Canmore Freestyle Races - "Liveblogging"

(Written on Friday, 1/25, from the FIS live-update site.)

Today's freestyle distance races, run from the traditional interval start that sends the racers out every thirty seconds, use a surpassingly difficult 5km loop - two laps for women, three laps for men. In addition to a hideous number of tight curves (including quite a few out-and-out hairpins), each lap includes 179 meters of climbing (roughly equivalent to a 50-story building), with the biggest climb a full 66 meters in height (18 stories). Given all that uphill, the winners are going to be the racers who can accelerate late in the race, when everyone else is tiring, ascending the last few climbs and then descending well on tired, shaky legs. That's made more difficult by the fact that this race is essentially a time trial: the real race is against the clock, although catching racers who started in front of you is a good way to gain time on the field. The best racers - those counted in the "Red Group," start at the end, which gives them the small but crucial advantage of knowing others' split times. There will be some good crashes today.  Lukas Bauer would win the men's 15 if he hadn't fallen ill and stayed home. Similarly, Katerina Neumannova would win the women's 10 if she hadn't retired last year to take charge of the Czech Republic's effort to hold the 2010 world championships. My picks for the podium spots among the racers who are on snow today:
1. Valentina Shevchenko (UKR)
2. Justyna Kowalczyk (POL)
3. Evi Sachenbacher Stehle (GER)

1. Axel Teichmann (GER)
2. Pietro Piller Cottrer (ITA)
3. Alexander Legkov (RUS)

women's 10km freestyle
1.7km At the first time check, descending one of the early climbs, Shevchenko is holding a narrow lead over Evgenia Medvedeva (Russia), and they have a significant gap over Olga Rotcheva (Russia). Shevchenko and Medvedeva finished fourth and second in Tuesday's pursuit, so both are on good form today. The pursuit winner, Kowalczyk, runs fifth at this early point.
2.8km At this check, on a steep pitch just below the high point of the course, Shevchenko continues to lead, now with 4.7 seconds on Medvedeva. Kowalczyk is now fourth, just behind Rotcheva's time.
5.0km Passing through the stadium, Shevchenko has lost a bit of time to Medvedeva: the gap at the halfway point is just 1.6 seconds. Only Kowalczyk is within 10 seconds of the Ukrainian, so unless Shevchenko blows up in the second half of the race, it should be hers to win. The toughness of the course is underscored by the fact that late starters - i.e., the best racers - are dominating the top twenty places on the course. This is no place for dark horses.
6.7km A third of the way into the course, approaching the high point, Shevchenko is extending her lead in dramatic fashion: she's now up by 14.5 seconds to Kowalczyk in second, 14.6 to Medvedeva in third. Rotcheva is fading badly, now down 27 seconds and out of it. Deeper down the field, Canadian Sara Renner is in 23rd place, the highest-placing North American.
7.8km Yep, this is Shevchenko's race! Working her way up to the top of the course she has almost half a minute on Kowalczyk and a hair more over Medvedeva. There's no question that the Ukrainian was the most fit racer on the course today! Behind her, Sabina Valbusa (Italy) is moving up; she's just eight seconds out of third: if Medvedeva continues to tire, and Valbusa can descend well, the Italian could steal the bronze - setting up what's expected to be a big afternoon for the Italian men.
10km Shevchenko wins easily! And Medvedeva takes second when Kowalczyk fades in the last 2200 meters. A dominant race by Shevchenko, who's clearly assumed Katerina Neumannova's mantle as the best female skater. Sara Renner holds 19th to stay the best North American; Kate Arduser finishes 39th, the best American.

men's 15km freestyle
1.7km Just after the last member of the "Red Group" of top skiers leaves the gate, this early timecheck already shows that the course is inflicting some damage. With many of the fastest skaters yet to reach this mark, the early leaders are Swedes Marcus Hellner and Johan Olsson. Canadian Ivan Babikov, who is the rare skier who often skis a "negative split" - going faster on the second half of the course than on the first half - is fifth as the best skaters climb up to this point. American Kris Freeman is in 11th, about 8 seconds off the best time so far. As the big guns approach, though, none of these earlier starters are maintaining the spots. One after another, the Red Group skiers take over at the top. Anders Soedergren of Sweden, starting eighth-from-last, holds the lead longest, about ten seconds up on some of the favorites. Alexander Legkov (Russia) is running second, Giorgio di Centa (Italy) third. Olsson and Hellner are lurking there in fourth and fifth. Perhaps the Swedes are going to show up the Germans and Italians today? Certainly Axel Teichmann, the last starter, is off form so far: he's more than 30 seconds down, buried in 53rd place.
2.8km Approaching the top of the course for the first time, Soedergren holds his lead - five seconds on di Centa, seven on Legkov. Teichmann is way out of it today! On the other hand, Pietro Piller Cottrer is in fourth now, 8.1 down to Soedergren. Babikov and Freeman are running 12 and 13, about 17 seconds back of the leader.
5.0km As the racers sweep through the stadium for the first time, Soedergren is going very well indeed. The man has no sprinting ability, so wins in mass start events, which tend to cluster the field, are rare. But he's able to hurt himself like few others, so he's a perennial threat in individual-start races against the clock. He's 4.7 up on di Centa, 7.2 on Piller Cottrer. Kris Freeman is in 14th now, twenty-five seconds down. Marcus Hellner is the only skier from outside the red group who is in the top 10. Petter Northug of Norway, who had a terrible pursuit on Tuesday, is steadily moving up the field: from 16th at 2.8, he's in 11th now.
6.7km Still Soedergren, still about five seconds to an Italian - now Piller Cottrer. The field is compressing a bit now, though: five skiers are within ten seconds of Soedergren and 10 within 20 seconds. If he can't hold this pace, there are plenty of racers who will move past him on the leaderboard.
7.8km Soedergren's lead narrows dramatically here, as the racers make the big climb for the second time: he's less than a second ahead of Valerio Checchi of Italy, who's zoomed up from fifth, 8.0 seconds behind, at the last check. Piller Cotter is in third, di Centa fourth - showing that Italian strength everyone assumed would be displayed today. Kris Freeman continues to hover in the upper teens, about 30 seconds out of first. And Hellner is up there, too - fifth right now.
10km The lead changes here as the racers pass through the stadium for the second and last time - Checchi, seeking his first World Cup win - takes over the lead by five seconds over Soedergren! Does he merely have the typically fast Italian downhill skis, or can he charge up the hills on the last lap and take the victory? di Centa and Piller Cottrer are three and four, and now Rene Sommerfeldt (Germany) has snuck into the top five.
11.7km Checchi has this race by the horns now - 6.7 up on his countryman Piller Cottrer, who is a hard finisher. Sommerfeldt has moved all the way up third, after having been in seventh one lap ago. Soedergren is moving the other way, slipping down to fifth now, but just a couple long seconds out of third.
12.8km Checchi is putting time into the whole field - 8.4 on Piller Cottrer, 12.3 on Sommerfeldt, 19.0 on di Centa, 19.1 on Soedergren. It's quite a display, really - at 6.7km, Checchi was eight seconds behind Soedergren, meaning he's put 27 seconds on him in 6.1km. Ivan Babikov is now running 10th, the best North American, and within striking distance of eighth. Freeman, on the other hand, is falling down the field to 28th now - and only a few spots up on Garrott Kuzzy of the U.S., whos' have the race of his life in 33rd. Kuzzy is just 17 seconds out of the last points-earning spot.
15.0km Checchi wins! His first World Cup! Sommerfeldt finishes second, 8.3 behind, Piller Cottrer in third at 13.3. Vincent Vittoz of France winds up fourth, by far his best result this season. Anders Soedergren finishes a hard-luck eighth after losing time over the whole last lap. Babikov in 12th, the best North American. Other North Americans are in the top 30, too: George Grey (Canada, 25th place, 1:07 behind), Freeman (29, 1:28).

Driven-Through to Distraction

Tonight we hit the Wendy's drive-through for dinner. Julia was thoroughly perplexed by the whole deal, from why I turned down the order-dude's attempt to upsell ("Would you like to try a combo today?") and why we gave "that man" (actually a woman) our money but didn't get our food to why we weren't going inside ("Oh, Mama's at home waiting for us") and why the front of the car (where I had the food) "smelled so good" but not the back. She did like her (half) cheeseburger and her dozen fries, though. We must never mention the Frosty. (For her part, Vivi liked neither the fries nor the burger, and ate nothing but the pickles from the burger and some peas.)


The 70km (43.5 mile) Marcialonga ski marathon will be staged on Sunday in northern Italy. The race course runs mostly downhill route until, at about km 67, the track tips up a horrifying 10% grade into the beautiful town of Cavalese. Because of its length and because of its ending, the Marcialonga is one of the highlights of the "Worldloppet" and "Marathon Cup" circuits of very long ski races, perhaps second only to the grandaddy of them all, the 90km Vasaloppet, to be held on March 2 in Sweden. (Speaking for myself, I would love to ski the Marcialonga and the Vasaloppet - but right now neither my triceps nor my bank account could handle either one. Someday, though: fly to Rome in mid-January, drive up to Val di Fiemme for a vacation and the Marcialonga, then take a month to wander slowly up through Switzerland, Germany, and Demark into Sweden for the Vasa...)

This year, the Marcialonga is especially well-stocked with top-level athletes: former World Cup racers Frode Estil and Thomas Alsgaard (both Norway); current World Cuppers like Mathias Fredriksson (Sweden) and, amazingly, Odd-Bjoern Hjelmeset (Norway - the reigning 50km world champion and last year's winner at the fabled Holmenkollen 50km in Oslo); and the usual group of marathoners like last year's winner Jerry Ahrlin (Sweden), Oskar Svaerd (Sweden) and the brothers Joergen and Anders Aukland (Norway). According to this short profile of a Norwegian who's skied every Marcialonga since 1973 (by my count, that's 2,450 kilometers of racing), about 1,700 Norwegians are entered for this year's event, or about a third of all the entrants.

The women's race will go to Hilde Pedersen (Norway), a couple years removed from racing on the World Cup and last year's Marcialonga winner, and I think that Frode Estil will knock himself out to win on the men's side, making a late surge up that final climb for the victory. But with Hjelmeset in the mix...

The Worm in the Apple

Setting up this new MacBook last night was a breeze; by ten o'clock I was using a faster, higher, stronger machine that had all the same files and apps as my old one. Tonight, I hit the worm in the Apple, though: Microsoft products. My first attempt to launch Excel - which I own, having bought the Office suite back in the day - blew up and now the nagware is trying to get me to buy and download Office for Mac 2004. What year is it?

Apple of My Eye

This is my first post on my long-awaited, much-anticipated new Mac, a white MacBook that puts my old, beloved PowerBook G4 to shame in every technical respect: faster processor, more RAM, bigger hard drive, a new version of OS X, and cool new applications like Time Machine and PhotoBooth. This last finally lets me brings my self-conceptions to life:

Photo 3

And to pretend to wear the stunna shades I've always wanted:

Photo 5

Can(twait)more Racing

Today was a rest day at the World Cup XC event in Canmore, Alberta. Racing resumes on Friday with individual-start freestyle races: the women's 10km starts at 11 a.m., the men's 15km at 12:30 p.m. (both times Mountain). While it's unlikely any North American women will crack the top twenty in the 10 (with Canadian Sara Renner being an outside possibility), the 15 is the race where we could see the American hope Kris Freeman or either of the top Canadians, Devon Kershaw and Ivan Babikov, do very well indeed. 

Piglet on Terror

Reading from one of Julia's Winnie the Pooh books tonight, I came rediscovered a great line in the story about the "expotition" to the North Pole.

Pooh has just told Piglet that the Hundred-Acre Wood friends are about to start an "expotition" to find the North Pole. Piglet is worried that they might discover something fierce (Tyra Banks?). "'It isn't their necks I mind,' said Piglet earnestly. 'It's their teeth. But if Christopher Robin is coming I don't mind anything.'"

It's good advice for life, really - not mind the necks, but watch out for the teeth.

Canmore Classic Sprints - "Liveblogging"

The 1200 meter sprint course in Canmore is a tough one, featuring a 15 meter climb at the midpoint of the course and three hairpin turns, including one halfway down the descent to the finishing straightaway, just at the point of near-maximum exhaustion. I expect to hear of some crashes there. All in all, it's a power course, not a finesse one, and the winners today are likely to be the literally strongest racers, not the wiliest or luckiest. 

Women's 1.2km sprint
 The course exacts its penalty during the qualification round: a number of highly-ranked sprinters don't even qualify for the heats, American Kikkan Randall among them. Finn Virpi Kuitunen qualifies first, more than a second up on Slovenian Petra Majdic and Norwegian Astrid Jacobsen, who floundered in yesterday's pursuit. Perhaps the only surprise in the 30 racers who qualified for the heats is Canadian Sara Renner, back from a year off to have a baby and clearly in good form. Fellow Canuck Chandra Crawford, the 2006 Olympic sprint champion, also qualified for the heats; no Americans did.

Quarterfinal Round The heats are being tightly contested, but most of the big guns are going through to the semifinals. In heat 1, Virpi Kuitunen and Justyna Kowalczyk both advance in a photo finish. In #2, Finn Pirjo Muranen qualifies just behind the Russian sprint ace Natalia Matveeva. Then in heat 3, Canadian Chandra Crawford and Finn Aino-Kaisa Saarinen stage another "photo-photo" at the line, and both are through. Sara Renner finishes third, and won't go through - a tough break for her, but she is clearly on form and could do well in Saturday's freestyle sprint events. Petra Majdic wins heat 4 handily; Natalja Naryshkina (Russia) finishes a distant second but advances. In the last, fifth quarterfinal, junior world champion Alena Prochazkova wins just ahead of world sprint champ Astrid Jacobsen. After the addition of Seraina Mischol (Switzerland) and Julia Ivanova (Russia) as the two "lucky losers"(the racers with the two fastest QF times after all the first- and second-place racers), the semis are going to be well-stocked with topflight racers.

Semifinal Round Heat 1 is half Finns: Kuitunen, Saarinen, and Muranen. Matveeva, Mischol, and Kowalcyzk are also there, but this should be Kuitunen's to lose. The heat quickly turns into a three-way affair, with Kuitunen and Muranen vying against Kowalcyzk. The Finns have another photo finish, which goes to Kuitunen! All three qualify for the large final, though. Petra Majdic should be able to dominate SF #2, though Jacobsen is there too, as is Crawford. But Majdic wins handily, posting the fastest time of the day so far. Jacobsen in second and Prochazkova in third also advance to the final

Finals The two finals are going to be drag races. By this point in the day, everyone in one of the finals - the "large final" for the top six semifinalists and the "small final" for the other six - have been up, over, and around the sprint course three times already. They know the bumps and corners, but they're also dead tired. Though Kuitunen's definitely on form today, I think this one's going to go to Majdic: she's just got something extra today. But given this course's brutal climb and ridiculous corners, anything could happen in either race. The small final for places 7-12 on the day is dominated by Aino-Kaisa Saarinen, who wins going away, 3.3 seconds up on Natalia Matveeva. Ouch. But the large final turns into a head-to-head matchup between the towering Majdic and the elfin Jacobsen: another photo finish, which is given to Majdic! Incredible. What a day for the Slovene. Kowalczyk finishes third, taking her second podium spot in two days. Kuitunen finishes a distant fourth, Muranen fifth, the youngster Prochazkova sixth in the heat and on the day.

Men's 1.2km sprint
Qualification Round The mens' qualification sees similarly big gaps at the top of the order, with the seven Norwegians massed in the top ten. Boerre Naess qualified in the first position, a jawdropping 1.56 seconds up on unknown Russian Nikita Kriukov. Americans Torin Koos and Andy Newell qualify seventh and sixteenth, respectively, and Wisconsite Chris Cook sneaks into the heats by qualifying thirtieth - a great result for him. Two Canadians also qualify for the heats: Sean Crooks (18) and Phil Widmer (24). According to reports from, some of the Norwegians are double-poling the entire course, which quite a display of strength.

Quarterfinal Round Heat #1 is another tight finish: Naess takes the win, just ahead of countryman Anders Gloersen. American Chris Cook finishes fourth, behind Swede Mats Larsson, who qualifies for the semis as one of the two lucky losers. In Heat #2, American Torin Koos is facing off against Norwegian Eldar Roenning and Russian Vassili Rotchev, two of the best sprinters in the world. Canadian Phil Widmer is in this heat, too. But the North Americans are burned off - Roenning and Emil Joensson of Sweden go through; Rotchev is fast, but will have to hope for a lucky loser slot.  If anything, Heat #3 is worse, with Andy Newell pitted against Norwegians Tor Arne Hetland and Oystein Pettersen, both of whom have World Cup sprint wins. And those two advance, taking first and second in a three-way finish. Young Russian Michail Devjatiarov goes through as a lucky loser. In Heat #4, another Russian, Nikita Kriukov, dominates the field to take the win; Finn Kalle Lassila also advances. In the last quarterfinal, Norwegian Ola vigen Hattestad wins by a comfortable margin ahead of Swede Bjoern Lind, a former star who's building his way back up. Canadian Sean Crooks finishes fourth and out.

Semifinal Round As in the women's bracket, Heat 1 is dominated by one nation's racers: four Norwegians, including no. 1 seed Naess, line up along with Joensson and Devjatiarov. Heat 2 features two Norwegians, two Swedes, and a Russian (no. 2 seed Kriukov) and a Finn. The odds are pretty good that a Norwegian or three will be on the podium, and we'll probably see some team racing tactics - the Norwegians don't have qualms about boxing others out. True to form, the first SF heat sees its Norwegian quartet finish 1-2-3-4, led by Naess in a photo finish with Eldar Roenning. Anders Gloersen also qualifies for the A final as one of the lucky losers. In the other SF heat, Hattestad goes through, and Kriukov and Hetland wind up in another photo finish which sees them both advance. Five Norwegians and a Russian in the large final! I'd hate to be Kriukov right now: he's going to be bashed around.

Finals It's no brave guess to put three Norwegians on the podium today, but we'll have to see if Kriukov can somehow punch through - perhaps literally. In the small final, Swede Joensson wins easily, while his countryman Mats Larsson takes second ahead of Russian Devjatiarov. In the day's final event, it's all Norway. Kriukov must have fallen, winding up last, 27.1 seconds down to the winner - #1 bib Boerre Naess. What a day Naess had, winning the quals and alll three of his heats. Hattestad takes second, Roenning third, Gloersen fourth in his best-ever finish, and Hetland fifth.

Best Line Ever

For so many reasons - humor, surrealism, silliness, mood changing, cleverness...

Trudging up the stairs after dinner, Julia looked up at me waiting for her (and guarding the top step from an incursion by her sister), smiled brightly, touched the top of her head with her index finger, and fairly shouted, "If I had a hole in my head, I'd put a flower in it!"

That's my new motto.

Canmore Men's Pursuit - "Liveblogging"

start 58 men toe the start line this morning in this double pursuit, which requires racers to do the first half of the race in the classical technique, change skis and poles, and then do the second half in the freestyle or skating technique. Men's pursuits nowadays almost always some down to a sprint finish, and today's is unlikely to be any different, though the massive climbs on today's course could break up the pack enough to let someone escape on a breakaway. Germany's Axel Teichmann stands in start position one with teammate Rene Sommerfeldt next to him and Tor Arne Hetland (Norway) on the other side. The front ranks are stuffed with racers who could win this event; practically everyone in the first 20 positions has the freestyle-technique chops to pull off a win. American hope Kris Freeman is at position 30, deep in the field but not so deep that he can't make something happen.
2.1km At the first time check, just over the crest of the high point of the first loop, Finn Ville Nousiainen and Swiss Curdin Perl have a slight lead, but the first thirty racers are within ten seconds, including Americans Lars Flora and Michael Sinnott. Adrenaline, anyone?
3.75km Coming through the stadium for the first time, the field has compressed thanks to the loooong downhill run. Two Canadians - Devon Kershaw and Dan Roycroft - are in the front dozen, giving the Canadian fans a good show.
5.85km Anders Soedergren of Sweden is first over the big climb on this second lap, holding a surprisingly big 5.2-second lead over Nousiainen - and Kershaw, running third! Could Kershaw have it in him? Behind, the field is stretched out again, with Kris Freeman running in 19th, 12.9 seconds back of Soedergren. Comfortable.
7.5km Through the stadium again, a quarter of the way through this race, Soedergren is at the head of a growing group that also includes Kershaw. Half the field is within 10 seconds of Soedergren, so it's still very tight.
9.6km On the downside of the loop, it's a long, wide group of racers crowded toward the front. We should soon start to see jockeying for positions at the changeover, at the end of the next lap. Alexander Legkov of Russia, an excellent skater, is up front now, perhaps readying himself for that changeover. Kershaw's still running in third, Freeman down at 20.
11.25km Through the stadium for the third time, the field is now much more stretched out: 21 are within 10 seconds of Legkov, but only 6 are within 5 seconds. He's a danger, as are some of the others up front, like Rene Sommerfeldt and Martin Bajcicak (Slovakia), both excellent climbers and skaters.
13.35km Up and over the high point of the course for the last time on classic skis, the field has come together a bit, but gaps are now starting to emerge. Kershaw is gunning hard, and now runs second, down to Valerio Checchi of Italy. Top-notch skaters are massing at the front: Legkov, Sommerfeldt, Pietro Piller Cottrer (Italy), Tobias Angerer (Germany)...
15km At the changeover, Finland's Nousiainen is in first, but 18 racers are right there within 8 seconds of the front. Interestingly, after that the next few racers are scattered in ones and twos over the next minute of race time. The winner of this race is already up front, in the front dozen-and-a-half. Happily, both Kershaw and Freeman are in that group.
16.6km Nearing the high point of the course for this first time on skate skis, Martin Bajcicak narrowly leads Alexander Legkov; they have a two-second gap back to Checchi, more to Piller Cottrer and then Kershaw. 11 racers in 10 seconds, with Freeman in 20th, 20.4 seconds down.
18.25km Nearing the stadium for the first time in the skating half of the race, it's Kershaw in the lead! We've seen a ton of movement up front; the lead is changing all the time. 18 racers are within six seconds of Kershaw as he gives the home-country fans something to see. American Freeman is in 19th, 21.2 off the lead and, worse, out of contact with the lead group. He needs to rally soon to get back up there, then rest, if he hopes to finish high...
20.35km The racers are now ascending the big climb again, and who's up front but Kershaw! The Canadian continues to race well! Leading three Italians, Kershaw is racing way over his head here, and it's fantastic! Everyone else in the top 20 is a known World Cup quantity - except him! Amazing. Can he pull this off? The top 19 are within 9 seconds of his lead, which is pretty tight. Among that group is Ivan Babikov, racing in the Russian kit but a new citizen of Canada. He's only 3.7 seconds behind his new countryman. Freeman has cut down his gap to 15.6 seconds - just at the outer limit of striking distance.
22.5km With two grueling laps to go, the racers pass through the stadium again, facing two more grueling laps. Kris Freeman has taken advantage of the downhill to rejoin the front group, which now numbers 22 racers - a ridiculously large number, all within four seconds of the lead. Insane! Someone is going to have to go hard on the next lap to break up this group before the bell lap and the all-but-certain pack finish.
24.1km Up the hill again, and the field stretches out again. It's a congested race, with almost everyone mentioned so far still vying for the lead, including Devon Kershaw in fifth.
26.25km The last time through the stadium! Kershaw is right there, jockeying with Italians Giorgio di Centa and Pietro Piller Cottrer for the lead! Kris Freeman is 4.4 seconds off the front, but in 22nd - a lot of places to make up if he wants to be in this at the end. That last big climb is going to be absolutely decisive, and we have some skiers up front who are likely to turn on the jets there: di Centa, Sommerfeldt, Soedergren, Angerer, Swiss Toni Livers. Interestingly, none of the top Norwegians are anywhere near the front.
27.85km About to crest the big climb for the last time, the gaps are widening again! Up front are the Italian trio of di Centa, Piller Cottrer, and Checchi, with di Centa leading by nearly two seconds. Behind is a long freight train of other dangerous finishers, but now only 13 racers are inside 10 seconds of the front - a small but crucial narrowing of the field. How many can use the downhill to latch on again and get into the front for the sprint? Freeman is 19.4 seconds down, in 22nd. Unless something spectacular happens, he won't figure in the finish. But Devon Kershaw might - he's in eighth, 6.5 out. Can he break into the lead group now, after being there or thereabouts since midway through the first lap?
finish No! Russian Nikolai Pankratov, who has lurked in the top dozen all day, storms through for the win, 0.4 seconds up on workhorse di Centa! Teichmann and Angerer of Germany go 3-4 in a photo finish. It was a kilometer too far for Kershaw, who winds up in 16th, one spot ahead of his surging countryman George Grey and a few ticks behind Ivan Babikov in 13th. Babikov was the biggest climber of the day, moving up from 43rd at the start to 13th. After yo-yoing off the front group for the second half of the race, Kris Freeman faded to 22nd, 38.2 out of first. The first 18 racers were covered by just 8.9 seconds, so this pursuit shaped up to be as tight as most others. Wow. What a start to the Alberta World Cup.

Do More In Canmore

So Favre's Packers won't be the team to end the Patriots' "Pursuit of Perfection" (has there been a more annoying sports phrase since "Threepeat"?). American nordic skiing is on the eve of its own Super Bowl of sorts, the World Cup events in Canmore, Alberta, between Tuesday and Saturday. Though I already blogged about the events - toward which all the top American and Canadian racers have been training for a year - it's worth seeing that U.S. head coach Pete Vordenberg has raised the stakes rather high: "We'll be disappointed if we don't get at least one podium. It's cool that we've got three athletes who already have been on a World Cup podium - and Kikkan [Randall - Anchorage, AK], of course won last month in Russia. So, I don't know who it's coming from, but we're looking to see someone back on the podium."

Until last season, no American had won a podium place in more than 20 years, so this is placing a big bet.

The courses at Canmore are very hard, with constant ups and downs that don't allow the racers much time to recover. The only meaningful flats in Tuesday's pursuits will come as the skiers pass through the stadium on their way out to another 3.75km loop. Both races on Tuesday will have to be won on a last-lap breakaway up the big climb midway through the final loop, unless someone wants to take his or her chances in a bunch sprint to the finish line - which would be harrowing since the stadium comes at the end of a long, fast descent. Though neither Lukas Bauer nor Charlotte Kalla, the Tour de Ski champions, are racing in Canada (both haven fallen ill after winning the tour), both fields are very strong. My picks:

men's 15km+15km pursuit

1. Petter Northug (Norway)

2. Tor Arne Hetland (Norway)

3. Axel Teichmann (Germany)

women's 7.5km+7.5km pursuit
1. Kristin Stoermer Steira (Norway)
2. Valentina Shevchenko (Ukraine)
3. Claudia Nystad (Germany)

Change and Change Again

Here is a partial list of Julia's clothing choices this weekend:

Saturday's outfit (red pants, red t-shirt - no socks)
new outfit (same pants, Elmo shirt - still no socks)
ballerina tutu (several times)
nothing (for a while on Saturday afternoon while doing Play-Doh)
skirt and new t-shirt
Sunday's outfit (pants, shirt - no socks)
swimsuit (to play "swimming pool")
"shorty" jammies (6-8pm)
"longy" jammies (8pm onwards)

Assuming she's up for about 10.5 hours a day, this works out to be roughly one outfit every two hours.


Giants 23-20 Packers, at Lambeau. Boy, that was tough to watch - and not only because of the end. I didn't have time to watch much of any game this year except for this one, which only makes the season all the more bittersweet. But Brett Favre will go down with Lance Armstrong as an athlete who was always interesting to watch and always worth rooting for. Thanks, #4, for an adulthood's worth of good times.

Can't Spell "Privilege" Without an I (or Two)

Bold-faced items are true for me. (Via the Snarky Squab and Swill-er.)

1. Father went to college
2. Father finished college
3. Mother went to college
4. Mother finished college
5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor (verrry distant relative is a professor; hardly influential)
6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers
7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home
8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home
9. Were read children's books by a parent
10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18 (don’t think so)
11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18
12. The people in the media who dress and talk like you are portrayed positively (I receive daily reinforcement of the [possibly untrue] fact that white dudes run the planet)
13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18
14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs (scholarships)
15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs
16. Went to a private high school
17. Went to summer camp
18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18 (for specific subjects)
19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels (motels?)
20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18
21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
22. There was original art in your house when you were a child
23. You and your family lived in a single family house
24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home
25. You had your own room as a child
26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18
27. Participated in an SAT/ACT prep course (we bought and used the study guides, but I never took the courses)
28. Had your own TV in your room in High School
29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College
30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16
31. Went on a cruise with your family
32. Went on more than one cruise with your family
33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up
34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family

The list is based on "What Privileges do You Have?" an exercise developed by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University. The exercise developers ask that if you participate in this blog game, you acknowledge their copyright.

Souped Up

Vivi really liked her corn chowder at dinner tonight.


Actually gnawing on the bowl is poor form - unless you're a baby.

Indoor Recreation 

Unwilling to sear my lungs (and lose my fingertips) with an outdoor workout today, I went to the Carleton Rec Center to run around the track for a while. It was actually quite a good place to do some interval work, in part because I could watch a dozen undergrads play cricket on the multipurpose floor inside the track loop. Halfway through my second interval, though, the cricket ball escaped, and the "catcher" (I'm too lazy to look up the actual position names), in chasing it down, pushed the heavy, weighted dividing curtain right into my knee. Thanks, dude!

On the plus side, I swung by the "Muni" on the way home and picked up a six-pack of Bell's Best Brown Ale. Beer! In my house!


This morning, I had to go help Julia's grandpa pack up some stuff at her great-grandma's apartment. When I told her that I had to go over to the "retirement center," she looked over, surprised, and said, "The pirate center?"

Avast, matey, but no. Though tha'd be a bloody good place to spend yer golden yars!


Yesterday was Julia's 1320-sometingth day of life, and her first in which she went to sleep not wearing a diaper - a huge milestone that just sort of happened.

All In - Unless It's Cold Out

Backdrop: Rob Hardy's great "Poem About Global Warming."

I was pretty revved up to ski-race on Saturday at the Crazy Carleton Classic Relay on Saturday, but alas, it's not to be. The predictions of -10 ambient temps (minus a zillion with the windchill) have worked their black magic and the race has been canceled. Even the International Ski Federation's official rules mandate cancelation in such conditions, so this is probably a good decision.

Instead of actually racing I'm going to look forward to some ski-race spectating via the web next week: four World Cup races at Canmore, Canada. The Americans and Canadians are, by all accounts, rather revved up for the competitions, which will see the Europeans jetlagged and out of their element. Because the races are in North America, both the U.S. and Canada can send many more athletes than usual, so there are huge contingents of racers from those two countries.

For both those reasons, I hope for some good results from the North Americans in Tuesday's skiathlons (Kris Freeman putting it all together?), the sprints on Wednesday and Saturday (Kikkan Randall or Andy Newell or Torin Koos or Devon Kershaw winning on the home continent?), and the interval-start distance races on Friday (Freeman for the U.S., Nighbor for Canada?). Here (via American racer David Chamberlain) is a skier's-eye view of the almost-always-decisive descent into the stadium at Canmore. The scenery's decent:

Frozen Jaw

Not a town in the Yukon, but rather the result of today's commutes to and from work. It was rather cold. My brakes were pretty hard to squeeze, my tiretreads iced up within a minute or two of starting each trip, one contact lens froze on the way home, and the half-inch of slushy glop on the way home made the roads into one big lateral slip-'n'-slide. The tailgating cars and SUVs were no help in making good speed, either. Uff-da.

Man vs. Light

There's a tradition, in certain circles, of doing "race reports" after, you know, doing a cyclocross or road or running or ski race. Some of these - like those written by Colin R. or Kikkan Randall or Laura Valaas - are really informative and even engrossing pieces of sportswriting. I don't get to do much racing, but what the hell? I'm sure the internets would love to read the gripping tale of how I raced my headlamp beam on Wednesday night.

The venue for this showdown was the Ann Sipfle Memorial Ski Trail (recently blogged), at the western edge of Carleton's Cowling Arboretum. From its southern start at the parking lot for Carleton's West Gym, the trail runs northeast and then east for 2.12 miles (3.42 kilometers), partly along the Cannon River. The trail is mostly flat for the first 1.2 miles. Just short of the Millpond Dike trail, it turns upwards, gaining about 55 feet in elevation over the next half-mile (the "steepest" pitch being a not-quite-Alpine 4% grade). There's a short false flat on the way up, another flat at the top of the ridge, and then a long straight downhill that runs almost to the northern trailhead to Canada Avenue, near the fabled (and falling-down) Waterford Iron Bridge. On the way back, that half-mile climb is a nice descent, but you have to fight over a steep little ramp (about 7% grade, but maybe 100 feet long) before you get there. The trail is very narrow and not so much groomed (though someone ran a snowmobile along it earlier this week) as allowed to develop a nice classic track - perfect for a double-pole workout on my waxless Fischer Supercrowns. The lime-green Alpina classic boots are just a bonus, something for the kids.

I knew the night was going to be good when the last song on the radio was the Smith's "William, It Was Really Nothing." I don't dream about anyone except myself, you know. I warmed up by skiing the route back and forth once, trying to stay stable on the ice, accelerate up the hills, and get the blood pumping. Other animals' blood was pumping too: just as I hit the Millpond Dike trail hill, I whipped past a snowshoer and her two dogs, then skied right through a big patch of bright red blood. Apparently one of the doggies had caught a squirrel or rabbit. Anybody know how to wax for blood? I tried to gun it over the top of the hill and then recover on the backside. I stopped my watch at 13:28 at the first turnaround. Apart from punching it up the short hill, I went pretty easy on the way back to the start, clocking 14:26. Both ways, though, the semicircle of headlamp light stayed ahead of me the whole way. The only spots where I almost caught it were on the hills when I bent my head to really bear down.

A few deep breaths, and I was off on the main event: as fast as I could go over th3400 meters between West Gym and Canada Avenue. The early flat was easy and quick, and I felt like I had some good pop in my double-pole - not U.S. Ski Team pop, but more than I had this summer on my rollerskis. Coming toward the blood, I really focused on sharp, rapid movements, keeping the turnover high to maintain my speed onto the slope. I felt like I zoomed up the first bit of the hill without a problem, but when I checked, my headlamp beam was still out front, no more than six feet away.

That gap stayed steady over the false flat, then narrowed a bit as we rounded the corners and hit the second half of the climb. Up the last bit of uphill, I nearly caught the beam when I looked straight down to keep my skis in the badly crowned track, but then I fell behind again over the top of the course and stayed six feet back on the long ski-rattling downhill toward the finish. I made one last push, hammering the final straightaway toward Canada Avenue as hard as I could. My heart rate went up past 165, and and hit the finish line in 12:21, a PR for this route by 3:37. Even so, that damn lamp beam did it faster by about a half second. Next time, I'll get those photons. I know right where the off switch is.

Dressed for Dinner

This is what the girls wore to dinner on Monday night (downstairs, at the dining room table). Julia was a dancer (duh) and Genevieve, as near as I could tell from her preverbal utterances, was the living embodiment of the idea of pink, right down to her little cheeks.


Director of Naps

No, it's not an underground rock band or a character from a surreal novel. Here is Julia, holding the Director of Naps, a.k.a. her once-and-current favorite sleeping buddy, Kitty Cat.
On Saturday, after Julia took a very short nap, she told me, "Kitty Cat is the Director of Naps, but she isn't mad that I took a short nap. Nope, she is okay with it."


Sure, it's the middle of January and it's cold and spring is a long time away. It's also Heikinpäivä, a midwinter celebration invented a few years ago in my hometown and celebrated this week. I love invented traditions like this, especially ones that are heavily dependent on bread and snow and ski races and bears.


A rather strange game, as Sunday go. Some friends took over afternoon babysitting duties to let Shannon and me go to see a new talkie, Juno, at the local moving picture house. (This is the third movie we've seen in a theater since Julia was born; at this rate we'll see the next one when she's in kindergarten.) It was a great movie, though the whole theme of childbearing/-rearing pretty much kept me on the verge of getting all sniff-and-kleenex the whole time. I knew I was a goner when one of the previews made me tear up, and the last twenty minutes of the flick itself were no easier: when they showed that gross purple baby, I lost it. Highly recommended.

Later on, I headed to the trails to see if I can go the distance of the City of Lakes Loppet (which is three weeks from today). I could, and didn't even suffer too much, but things got a little fuzzy there toward the end. I don't recall actually skiing over a few stretches of my last lap around the Arb. 

Winter Hike

We took advantage of the beautiful winter weather to go for a short family hike in the Arb today. The girls walked and rode in the sled, Shannon ran on her snowshoes (which were used for the first time in years), I pulled the sled and pushed it down the hills. A few skiers and another hiker trooped by, the towering pines were austerely gorgeous, and the snow blanketed everything.


Outings like this one make me glad for winter. And afterwards, what's better than a little reading in a cushion house?


Almost-Perfect Ending

Today started badly and got worse: both girls up too early and tired, burned their eggs onto the stovetop, rode into a face-numbing westerly on the way to work, all the snow gray and filthy, got to work late to face too many to-dos in too few hours.

Then it started getting better: two emails handling rewrites I thought I'd have to do, my assistant effortlessly figuring out why I couldn't get a budget to balance, hearing a good (if depressing) convocation talk, running a few long-postponed errands over lunch, an easier-than-expected time of editing two other documents, IM'ing with a much-missed friend in the afternoon.

And the day ended very well indeed: a few minutes reading with the girls, going for pizza with another family, a wonderful snowfall starting while we ate, the girls going to bed easily (if a bit late), doing a ski in conditions that were just so ideal that I wound up going twice as long as planned, discovering - after passing beneath them scores of times - two gorgeous oaks whose branches are actually meeting directly over the trail.

Sunset Drive

I suppose this is why they named our street "Sunset Drive."


When she saw this sky on Tuesday, Julia exclaimed, "Look at the beautiful sunset, Daddy! It's so pretty! The colors would be good for candy or for a shirt." You know, either/or.

Jump Around

This is ancient video, in YouTube terms, but holy cow is it fun to watch Bjørn-Einar Romøren set the world ski-jumping record of 239 meters (261 yards) at Planica, Slovenia, in March 2005.

Hump Day

As my Norwegian neighbor said this evening when I dropped in on her, "Uff da." A good day does not include two hours of car travel with two cranky girls before noon, nor 3.5 hours of meetings in the five hours of work after finally getting to the office around 12:30. On the plus side, I skied tonight and there's snow on the way.


Some of the choicer things my eldest has said to me in the last few days;

On asking whether I could do the yoga "child's pose" and seeing that I couldn't: "Daddy, that makes no sense."

On being asked why she couldn't help clean up the mess in her room: "Daddy, I'm just over here doin' stuff."

On laying down a row of Duplo blocks, telling me that they were the wood floor of a house, and then having me ask whether they were painted green or if the wood was green to start: "Daddy, don't pretend."

In telling a story about talking to her mom: "She told me to, and I was like, ''No.'"

She's three-and-a-half, not 13.

Nap Disconnects

Genevieve and Julia woke up at exactly the same time from their naps on Sunday. When I pried her out of her crib, the first thing Genevieve did was yawn loudly in my face. When I pried her out of her bed, the first thing Julia said was, "Boy, am I tired! I'm going to get a good night of sleep tonight!" I think these two characters need to think more deeply about just what these naps are all about.

Photographically Summarized

This is the result of the family's morning activity: a defunct Christmas tree.


This is the result of three-quarters of the family's afternoon activity: Frosty! Julia says he's "zany."


Tour de Ski Stage 8 - "Live" Blogging the Final Climb

The second Tour de Ski comes down to today's stage, which takes the racers out of the fabled ski stadium at Val di Fiemme (site of two world championships), down part of the course of the 70km Marcialonga ski marathon, and then up, up, up the Alpe Cermis, a brutal slope which accounts for about a third of the total race distance today. The course on the Alpe is like a giant slalom in reverse: the recares slowly, painfully pick their way up the hill, traversing the steepest pitches, hairpinning around gates, seeing those ahead and those behind the whole way. Though this is only the second year up the Alpe, it's already become a famous (and infamous) part of international nordic skiing lore, as difficult in its own way as the 90km Vasaloppet race in Sweden or the men's 4x10km relays at the Olympics or world championshiops.

men's final climb
start Lukas Bauer (Czech Republic) holds the advantage in today's Stage 8 of the second Tour de Ski. Wearing the golden bib of the overall leader in the TdS, he'll start first, 1:50 ahead of second-placed Tord Asle Gjerdalen (Norway), who in turn starts 34 seconds ahead of speedy Italian Pietro Piller Cottrer. 57 more racers will start over the following half-hour in this pursuit-style race, but few have a chance of catching Bauer, who is an excellent freestyle (or skate) skier. While Bauer should finish the grueling climb up Alpe Cermis first and take his first Tour de Ski championship, there should be quite a bit of movement behind him, though. I tip Piller Cottrer to catch Gjerdalen and take second in the overall standings. Further down, I expect another great Italian skater, Giorgio di Centa, to pass quite a few of those starting ahead of him, and possibly even push onto the podium along with Bauer and Piller Cottrer. 
2.5km This first time check comes as the racers start a flat stretch along part of the course of the famous Marcialonga ski marathon, which will take them to the bottom of the climb. Bauer has extended his leads over Gjerdalen and Piller Cottrer, who are still running 2 and 3 (about 30 seconds apart), while Norwegian Tor Arne Hetland, a great skater, has already caught his countryman Jens Arne Svartedal, who started on position and seven seconds ahead. If he's feeling it, and if anyone ahead falters, Hetland could well make the podium, too.
6.5km The lead racers are now on the mountain, and the top six places are exactly as they were on the starting line. Svartedal has caught back up to Hetland, and they're now traveling together along the horrible serpentine course up the Alpe. The biggest mover on the day so far is Bauer's teammate Martin Koukal, who has moved up from 11th place to 8th, 3:25 down. For his part, Bauer is only stretching out his lead over Gjerdalen and Piller Cottrer.
7.4km Partway up the climb, we're seeing more jockeying for positions. Bauer is out front, but Piller Cottrer is now just two seconds down to Gjerdalen. And behind, di Centa has moved up from sixth to fourth, 32 long seconds out of third. He's moving with Hetland and Petter Northug (with whom he had a shoving match after a sprint race earlier this week). Svartedal is fading back down the field.
8.2km di Centa has put in a huge move in the last 800 meters, vaulting from fourth and 3:02 back of Bauer to second and 2:48 down! It's almost impossible to think he'll catch Bauer, but he has dropped Hetland and Northug, blown past Piller Cottrer, and now gone in front of Gjerdalen, who's trying to hang with him. Piller Cottrer is running fourth, six seconds behind Gjerdalen and eight behind di Centa.
9.1km di Centa has solidifed his hold on second. Though he still trails Bauer by nearly three minutes here on the mountain, he now has ten seconds on Gjerdalen. And Gjerdalen is in big danger, too: he leads German Rene Sommerfeldt by just two seconds at this time check! The German has moved up from ninth to fourth, and looks to be gunning for that last podium spot. Piller Cottrer has faded down the field; unless he has something saved up for the last, worst bit of climbing, he won't be on the podium with di Centa.
finish Incredible! Bauer wins, sealing his dominance of the second Tour de Ski, but 2:47 behind him there is of all things a sprint finish, which Rene Sommerfeldt wins, taking second by three-tenths of a second over Giorgio di Centa. Amazing! Gjerdalen fades to take fourth, Hetland holds steady in fifth, and German Franz Goering moves up six places to finish sixth. Poor Piller Cottrer - he dropped four places and winds up seventh.

women's final climb
start Finland's Virpi Kuitunen, the defending Tour de Ski champion, will start first today, holding a slim 40 second advantage over the surprising young Swede Charlotte Kalla. Russian Olga Rotcheva, who made a late run into the upper reaches of the TdS standings, will start third, 1:26 down; home-country favorite Arianna Follis, who had been ranked as high as first earlier in the tour, will start fourth, 1:36 behind Kuitunen. It's from this group that we'll probably see the podium spots emerge, though if Pole Justyna Kowalczyk (fifth, 2;19 down) can rally from her terrible performance yesterday, she might challenge as well. But the race is going to be a battle between Kalla, an excellent skater, and Kuitunen, a wily veteran who has had a tough time with freestyle events this year. I think Kalla will take it, with Kuitunen in second and Follis, powered by the Italian crowds, in third.
1.5km Kuitunen is off fast, trying to enlarge her gap to Kalla before they hit the mountain. She's garnered an additional three seconds already. Behind, everyone is running at or near their starting spots and times.
5.5km The racers are on the mountain, but the gap is still growing: Kuitunen is up 54 seconds on Kalla. Behind, Follis has passed Rotcheva, though just barely; the pair is traveling together up the hill at 1:34 behind Kuitunen - 40 seconds behind Kalla.
6.4km Kalla has started to pull back some time, cutting Kuitunen's lead by 11 seconds in 900 meters. Rotcheva has reasserted herself, moving back ahead of Follis and dropping the Italian. Rotcheva is now 1:13 behind Kuitunen, 25 seconds behind Kalla. Could she move up further? Further down the hill, Ukrainian racer Valentina Shevchenko, a fast skater, is moving up well: she is in sixth after starting in twelfth. Shevchenko skied the third-fastest final climb last year, so she's dangerous on this hill. A podium for her this year?
7.2km Shevchenko moves up another spot to fifth, and is now fifty seconds out of third place. But above her, Kalla is slashed Kuitunen's lead to ribbons, and trails by just 1.4 seconds - a matter of a few powerful strides! Is the Finn blowing up? Has Kalla put out too much too early? They have only about 1800 meters to go!
8.1km - After following Kuitunen for seven minutes (playing a head game of epic proportions?) Kalla takes the lead just before this time check with a big burst, using a V2 stroke to pass and instantly drop Kuitunen! (video) The difference in their strides is enormous: Kalla looks relatively fresh, stepping well up the hill, while Kuitunen looks utterly spent, barely lifting her feet. Within a matter of 25 meters, Kalla took a 3.2 second lead. And behind, Rotcheva is within 30 seconds of Kuitunen, with Follis right behind! 900 meters to go, up some of the worst pitches on the mountain.
finish Kalla wins! (video) She destroyed Kuitunen at the top of the hill, and takes the win by 36 seconds! It must have been heartbreaking for Kuitunen to be passed so decisively and so late in the climb! Almost as excitingly, Arianna Follis went past a fading Rotcheva and powered her way to third, 53 seconds behind Kalla. Shevchenko continued to move up right to the finish line, winding up fourth. Rotcheva fell from third to fifth. What a race for Kalla! She calmly saved herself for the worst part of the climb, and then dramatically showed everyone on the mountain who is the best racer in the Tour de Ski - and maybe in the world right now.

And You'd Waste All the Miracles on Berenstain Bears Books

Julia's ongoing fascination with all things related to the nativity today led her to exclaim, around bedtime, "I wish I was Jesus!" I replied, "You do?" She said, "Yeah! Except then I'd be dead."

Tour de Ski Stage 7 - "Live" Blogging

Stage 7, the penultimate day of the Tour de Ski sees, all the racers starting together, for the first time in the tour. This “mass start” format is undeniably exciting, since everyone is bunched at least for the first few kilometers and often until well after that, if not right up to the finish line. 

women’s 10km classical mass-start
start Women’s mass-start races like today’s 10km tend to see long breakaways by a solo skier or a small group: last year, then- and current leader Virpi Kuitunen broke away with a Finnish teammate to take a huge win. Such a breakaway is the only way we’ll see big changes in the overall standings. Given that today’s race is being run in the classical technique, Virpi Kuitunen, a great classical skier, must be tipped as the likely winner. What’s more, she has three Finnish skiers near here, all of whom are very creditable competitors and all of whom might – if team tactics come into play – be used to sweep up the bonus time on offer at 3.3km, 6.6km, and 10km – 15 seconds for the first racer over the line at those checks, 10 for the second, 5 for the third. For those three Finns, winning that extra time is less important than simply keeping that time from Kuitunen’s main rivals, Charlotte Kalla (Sweden), just 0.2 seconds behind in the overall standings, and Justyna Kowalczyk (Poland), 23.7 down.
1.7km The field is pretty tightly bunched at this first time check, with Kuitunen, Kowalcyzk, and Kalla up front along with Aino-Kaisa Saarinen of Finland – one of those Finns who might be valuable in keeping Kalla out of the bonus seconds. Could Saarinen and Kuitunen be trying to duplicate their breakaway last year, when they shattered Marit Bjorgen’s hope of drawing within striking distance of Kuitunen before the final climb?
3.3km A third of the way into the race, exactly such a breakaway looks to be happening. The two Finns are more than 7 seconds off the front, where they’re trailed by Katrin Zeller of Germany. Both Kowalczyk and Kalla are well off the pace – 10.1 and 11.5 seconds, respectively – but are running with a huge peloton there. Kuitunen has taken the 15 second time bonus at this time check, and thus leads Kalla by almost 30 seconds, Kowalczyk by almost 50.
5.0km At the halfway point, the peloton has pulled back the breakaway – or perhaps the escapees simply slowed after taking the time bonuses. Norwegian Kristin Stoermer Steira, a great young racer who loves mass-start events, is in the lead here, three-tenths up on Pirjo Muranen (one of those Finns) and 1.3 up on – of all people – Charlotte Kalla, who gets five seconds in bonus time here. Kuitunen is right behind Kalla, but Saarinen has dropped way back and Anna Hansson of Sweden is moving forward, perhaps to help Kalla up front. Only 5.3 seconds cover the top ten, which includes a number of dangerous racers. This one is still wide open.
6.6km Kuitunen has responded to the approach of the peloton. Now accompanied by Muranen in second, she goes first over the line here to take another 15 seconds in bonus time. Kalla has drifted backwards into sixth place, almost five seconds behind and out of the bonus time. The last third of the race is going to be a killer. Kalla must get back on terms with Kuitunen if she wants to limit her losses today!
8.3km And she does, in a big way! Kalla and Kuitunen are neck-and-neck with 1700 meters to go! After fading a bit, Steira is back in the top three, along with overall no. 4, Olga Rotcheva of Russia. The top nine racers are inside of ten seconds of the lead, so a late surge could still deliver the win to anyone in this big group. I’m going to predict that Kuitunen waits and then attacks in the last kilometer to take the win, just as she did in the 30km mass-start classical race at last year’s World Championships, where she defeated Steira.
finish – And she does! With what must have been a massive push, she wins by 4.5 seconds over Kalla! More importantly, she takes another more bonus time. She’ll have a lead of about a half-minute as they start tomorrow’s final climb – not much, but perhaps enough. Credit to Kalla, too, though: she fought very hard in her less-favorable technique to stay with Kuitunen nearly to the end and to prevent the growth of a big gap to the Finn. German Claudia Nystad takes third. Poland’s Kowalczyk blew up today, finishing 1:10 down to Kuitunen and effectively ending her chance at finishing on the final TdS podium, much less winning the event. Kuitunen hasn’t been at her best in freestyle events this year or this tour, as yesterday’s poor performance in the Asiago springs showed. She’ll need to do something special to hold off Kalla on the final climb tomorrow. Summary -  video

men’s 20km classical mass-start
start With that exciting women’s race in the books, we turn to the men’s 20km, where no. 1 bib Lukas Bauer holds a big 77-second lead over untested Norwegian Tord Asle Gjerdalen and a whopping 1:45 lead over the Italian veteran Pietro Piller Cottrer. Nobody in the world has Bauer’s form in the classical technique today, but it remains to be seen if he can race well in the mass start format, which isn’t his forte. Team tactics may be critical in this race: three Norwegians (Gjerdalen, Tor Arne Hetland, and Petter Northug) are in the top five, and as yesterday’s sprints showed, they’re willing to work together to box out rivals, whether during attacks or at the bonus-time checks. Bauer, though, has two Czech teammates in the top ten, so we may see a Czech vs. Norwegian race-within-the-race today.
1.7km – Something insane is happening! There must have been a crash or other problem at the start, because the field is upside down. Bauer is already 20 seconds off the pace, buried in fiftieth position. Northug and Piller Cottrer are eleventh and twelfth, 4.1 and 4.4 seconds down to the race leader, Norwegian and classical-technique specialist Odd-Bjoern Hjelmeset. Gjerdalen is five seconds off the lead, Hetland almost ten. We could be seeing a big attempt by the Norwegians to break Bauer. Certainly, Hjelmeset is the man to do it: he’s the current world champion at the 50km distance, and a very good sprinter, too.
3.3km Almost the status quo. Noregian Eldar Roenning, who won the mass-start in last year’s TdS, is now up front with Hjelmeset; Bauer is still mired almost 20 seconds from the front. Perhaps he’s conserving energy for tomorrow’s hill climb? Fighting bad skis? Just plain tired? At any rate, none of the big guns took any bonus time at this check.
5.0km A quarter of the way into the race, the field has tightened again. German Franz Goering is up front, along with three Norwegians, but Bauer is now less than ten seconds back, having cut his deficit to the leader in half in just 1700 meters. Gjerdalen and Piller Cottrer are still up the trail from him.
6.6km The race seems to be stabilizing. Six racers are running within four seconds of the lead, then another 20 or so are within 17 seconds. It’s still too tight to call. Bauer is hovering about ten seconds out of first, but now five seconds ahead of Northug and a couple seconds up on Hetland. He’s negating any serious attempts to cut into his lead.
8.3km Not only negating them, but now actively repelling them – Bauer takes over at the head of the race! Gjerdalen has moved up with him, but trails by about two seconds; Piller Cottrer is down about four seconds.
9.9km Bauer cruises through in first at the halfway point, taking 15 seconds in bonus time. Gjerdalen, Piller Cottrer, and Hetland are all nearby. Though there’s 10,000 meters of snow to go, things look to be under Bauer’s control now. Unless Gjerdalen can team up with another Norwegian to mount a late and lasting breakaway, Bauer should be right there at the finish.
11.6km An attack on Bauer is just not in the works so far: Gjerdalen has drifted back, Hetland up. A number of excellent finishers are at the head of the race, including Russian Evgeni Dementiev, who is great at winning mass-starts, and Hetland, who just won a mass start in Russia. If there’s a surprise in the top ten, it’s Italian journeyman Valerio Checchi, who started the day in 26th place in the overall but who here is in third behind Bauer and Dementiev.
13.3km With bonus time on offer, Bauer goes first at this time check, leading Italians Giorgio di Centa and Pietro Piller Cottrer. That trio is off the front, with Hetland now in fourth, two seconds behind Piller Cottrer and a second ahead of Dementiev. Gjerdalen is now 10 seconds out of first.
15.0km Going into the last quarter of the race, things have tightened up again! The race-within-a-race turns out not to be one of nations-vs.-nations, but one of racers fighting for time bonuses and places that might mean better starting positions in tomorrow’s final climb. Bauer holds the lead, but now sixteen other racers are within 10 seconds of him, nine within five seconds. Nobody’s going to take time from him today, but anybody could still win this race.
16.6km No! Just as in the women’s race, the leaders respond to the contraction of the field by taking off: Bauer, di Centa, and Piller Cottrer are off the front, leading Checchi by almost nine seconds! It may come down to these three. Can anyone bridge up to them?
18.3km Yes, several can! Among others, Norwegians Jens Arne Svartedal and Odd-Bjoern Hjelmeset have come up, and here hold the lead over Bauer. The Italians are drifting backwards, but Dementiev and Gjerdalen are there again! What a finish this will be! I’ll predict that Dementiev takes it head of Svartedal and Hjelmeset, Bauer in fourth.
finish Almost! Hjelmeset wins in a photo finish with Svartedal! German Franz Goering comes from nowhere to steal third place. Bauer finishes seventh, but gives up no major time to his rivals. Not a glorious day for him, but a workmanlike effort to keep things stable ahead of tomorrow’s final climb. He will start 1:49 ahead of Gjerdalen tomorrow – a gap that one would think is big enough as to be…

Tour de Ski Stage 6 - "Live" Blogging

Thank goodness I like obscure European sports and not (so much) NCAA-sanctioned pro-ish sports like college basketball, or my liveblogging would really suffer. The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required) reports that
With March Madness just around the corner the NCAA has decided to clamp down on prolific blogging. Last month the group issued a new policy limiting the number of blog posts during 23 different championship college events. Here’s a sampling of the restrictions: Baseball and softball, one each inning; lacrosse, three per quarter, one at halftime; football, three per quarter, one at halftime; basketball, five times per half, one at halftime, two times per overtime period. The policy also says that bloggers must link to The new rules are being roundly criticized in the blogosphere. CNET’s Ina Fried said they remind her of the “music industry trying to hold on desperately to old business models in a fundamentally new era.” David Scott of Boston Sports Media Watch said the rules “are begging to be made fun of.” Ars Technica seems ambivalent, calling the rules both silly and reasonable.

Forthwith, then, here's delayed liveblogging of today's sprint races in Asiago, Italy, in the beautiful Val di Fiemme.

Today’s sprint events in Asiago, Italy, open the last phase of the Tour de Ski; they’re the only short-distance event in the last three days of racing, which carry through long mass-start classical races on Saturday (10km for women, 20km for men) and then, on Sunday, the grueling “Final Climb” event which takes skiers most of the way up the Alpe Cermis, a steep mountainside usually used for downhill skiing. Today’s freestyle sprints are the last chance for sprint specialists to place well, and what’s more, the last big chance for those lower down the general classification to move up, thanks to the big time bonuses on offer (60 seconds for winning, 56 seconds for second place, 52 for third, and so on down to one second for thirtieth place). The sprints in Prague temporarily shook up the men’s G.C., but things reverted to form after the next day’s distance races. Today, Lukas Bauer of the Czech Republic – not a good sprinter – and Virpi Kuitunen of Finland – an excellent sprinter – are leading the men’s and women’s standings, respectively. While Bauer's big lead can't be eaten up with even the largest time bonuses, Kuitunen has just a 25 second advantage over Charlotte Kalla (Sweden); a high placing, much less a win, by Kalla would close or even eliminate that gap.

women’s sprints
Arianna Follis of Italy – who lurks near the top of the G.C. – set the fastest time in the qualification round. She then won quarterfinal 1. In QF 2, Norway’s Marit Bjorgen failed to advance, finishing fifth and losing any chance to use the sprint time bonuses to move back up the standings. On the other hand, Virpi Kuitunen (who qualified second today) won her heat, just ahead of rival Charlotte Kalla. In the semifinal 1, Follis finished second to Justyna Kowalczyk by 1/10th of a second but still qualified for the large final, as did sprint world champion Astrid Jacobsen. In semifinal 2, Russian Natalia Korosteleva won ahead of Kalla and Russian Olga Rotcheva, who all thus advanced to the final. Virpi Kuitunen finished well back in fifth, relegating her to the small (or consolation) final, where she would now lose seconds to Kalla, Follis, and Kowalczyk, who guaranteed bonus time for themselves by making it to the final. In that small final, Kuitunen wound up fifth again, clearly not able to push hadrd today; Finn Pirjo Muranen won to take an overall seventh place.

In the large final (summary / video), Kalla capitalizes in dramatic fashion, using a huge burst to the line to win handily, more than a half-second up on Korosteleva and over a second up on Kowalczyk and Follis, who go 3-4 in a photo finish. Kalla thus takes advantage of Kuitunen’s inability to race well today, and – with the bonus time – now trails Kuitunen by just two-tenths of a second as they face the last two days of racing. Two-tenths! Kalla could take over the lead on the course tomorrow by capturing one of the time bonuses at the end of each of the three laps in the 10km mass-start. Unfortunately, classical-technique races are Kuitunen's forte, so it's likely that Virpi will gun for the bonuses - or send her Finnish teammates up the trails to take them and prevent Kalla from earning free time. Either way, only a collapse by either Kalla or Kuitunen will dampen the suspense over the "final climb" in stage 8. That stage will be run freestyle, Kalla's prefrerred technique and one with which Kuitunen seems to be struggling. On the other hand, Kuitunen did win the overall TdS title last year with a commanding run up the Alpe...

men’s sprints
Norwegian Tord Asle Gjerdalen - who likes to race in big ol' aviator-style sunglasses, not wraparounds like everybody else - qualified first today, and then won his quarterfinal, a race pitting three Norwegians – all of whom advanced – against three Germans. In QF 2 , Italian Cristian Zorzi, a.k.a “Zorro,” won to move on, along with countryman and distance racer Pietro Piller Cottrer. The very fast QF 3 saw Tor Arne Hetland qualify with a win. In Heat 4, another Italian, Giorgio di Centa, qualified, just behind Martin Koukal of the Czech Republic. In the last QF heat, current sprint-standings leader Nikolay Morilov won, qualifying ahead of the young Norwegian Petter Northug, who has had a poor tour so far. Northug then went on to win the semifinal two in a photo finish with with Tor Arne Hetland; both moved on to the large final. Afterwards, di Centa confronted Northug about some tricky tactics during the race and the two got into a shoving match, as this video shows. Not to be outdone, the other semifinal featured a three-way photo finish, which Gjerdalen won just ahead of Piller Cottrer and Zorzi; all three moved on to the final. Martin Koukal took the small final and seventh overall, taking some valuable bonus points.

The large final (summary / video) was a close-fought affair. Though Northug led most of the race, five of the six racers were still in the mix going into the finishing straight, with Zorzi seemingly ready with a great burst. Charging hard on the innermost lane, Northug upped his tempo to eke out a win 2/10ths ahead of Nikolay Chebotko of Kazakhstan and Hetland. Gjerdalen wound up last in the final, behind the Italians Zorzi and Piller Cottrer.

With the good placings in the sprint, everyone in the final narrowed their gaps to overall leader Lukas Bauer. Gjerdalen is second on general classification, 1:17 down; Piller Cottrer stands third at 1:45; Hetland is in fourth at an even 2:00, and Northug is in fifth, 2:03 back. None of these four trailers is a consummate classical-technique racer like Bauer, so it's unlikely that any of them could use the mass-start race's time bonuses to draw much closer. On the other hand, the final climb is so horrific that a motivated racer could take back 90 seconds or more - and Hetland, Northug, and PIller Cottrer (racing in front of an Italian crowd) are all freestylers on a par with Bauer.


With the possibility of above-freezing temperatures and even some rain this weekend, I took advantage of the girls' early bedtimes to do a long skate-ski session in the Upper Arb tonight - it's exactly a month until the City of Lakes Loppet in Minneapolis.

I'll feel the workout tomorrow in my legs and shoulders, but man, what a gorgeous night: the snow is still gleamingly white, the sky is a velvety black and studded with stars, the trails are in good shape, and the temperature is just high enough that both overheating and freezing are unlikely. Perfect. I knew things would be great when, after clipping into my skis, I looked up at the sky and immediately saw a long shooting star cross the Big Dipper.

Welcome Home

When I opened the front door after work today, I was greeted by two onrushing kids: Julia yelling, "Daddy, I took a good nap!" at the top of her lungs (then retreating to the sofa to lie down) and Genevieve doing her patented arm-waggle dance and shrieking, "Dada! Dada!" before falling against my knees with a big bear hug. That's a good ending to the first real day at work in ages. 

How Cold Is It?

Cold enough that the snow shrieks when you ski on it.

Cold enough that I had to bring our bottled water in from the garage so that it could defrost in the fridge.

Cold enough that, while skiing this evening, I couldn't feel myself biting my upper lip, it was so numb from the wind.

Cold enough that my hearing aids actually felt noticeably cold after a few minutes outside.

Cold enough that the windows are frosted - on the inside.

Cold enough that Ski Man has asked for a warm drink. He says he can't feel his toes.


Tour de Ski Stage 5 - "Live" Blogging

Today's races are the last in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic. Both the men's and women's events are classic-technique distance races run from the traditional start format of 30-second intervals between racers, with the last-placed skier starting first and the best-placed skier starting last. These races are essentially time trials, and as such privilege the late starters, who can get complete splits on everyone ahead of them, maximizing the opportunity to accelerate and catch - in an abstract time-versus-time sorta way - the most direct competitors. As such, Lukas Bauer of the Czech Republic must be the favorite in the men's 15km and VIrpi Kuitunen must be the favorite (albeit the fourth-from-last starter) in the women's 10km.

men's 15km classical (individual start)
start - Lukas Bauer will start 30 seconds behind the penultimate starter, his countryman Martin Koukal, and a minute behind the Itailan Pietro Piller Cottrer. Bauer's likely to catch Koukal, a freestyle or skating specialist, early in the race (no later than 5km), and will  probably snag Cotter, too. Every person Bauer catches is 30 more seconds in the bank for him. The best classic-technique racer in front of Bauer is German Axel Teichmann, starting 4:30 earlier.
0.5km - Only a half kilometer into the race, some early starters are setting the pace, with Russian Nikolai Morilov up by a second. Bauer is tied for sixth-fastest time at this split, 4.1 seconds down. His main competitors - Piller Cottrer, Italian Valerio Checchi - are 4.9 behind Morilov. Poor Koukal has already lost more than 5 seconds, which would put him 2:30 down at the end of the race.
2.6km - Now the race stabilizes: Bauer has charged up the standings to second,
7.5 seconds down on the new leader, early-starter John Kristian Dahl of Norway - a creditable classical-technique racer. Some other early starters are near the top of the standings here, but no other late starters - i.e., no other competitors for Bauer's golden bib - are anywhere nearby. This looks like another Bauer day!
4.25km - Yes: Bauer surges into the lead, now 12.5 seconds up on Eugeni Dementiev of Russia. Swede Mats Larsson is running well in third, 13.7 down, and Simen Oestensen is moving up the standings as well, now 21.6 down. In between are some other mid-range racers who might be trying to cut their gaps to Bauer. Surprisingly Teichmann is nowhere to be seen - he's not even listed in the live update. Has he dropped or crashed out?
6.35km - Bauer's lead is still edging upwards; it's now 14.1 to Dementiev. Russian Nikolai Pankratov is third, 17 behind Bauer, and Mats Larsson is 19.5 down.
8.0km - Well, this is almost boring. Bauer leads over Dementiev and Pankratov. Norwegian Eldar Roenning, though, is inching up the standings: having started the day well behind Bauer (35th in the overall), he's now running fourth, 28.5 down to Bauer but about 9 behind the two Russians at this split. With a bit less than half the race to run, he could well catch them, being a great classic skier. He'd also be dangerous in second place in the overall, with a sprint coming up on Friday after a rest day and then two tough stages on the weekend.
10.1km - Bauer maintains and Norwegian classic-technique specialist Jens Arne Svartedal moves up into fourth, ahead of Roenning but behind Dementiev and Pankratov.
11.75km - Svartedal moves into third, just barely ahead of Pankratov and just 2/10s back of Dementiev. He's putting in a big push here in the last third of the race!
13.85km - Svartedal into second, a half second up on Pankratov now, with Dementiev feeling the effects and dropping down to fifth. Mats Larsson has recovered and moved up to fourth, 1.3 out of third. Bauer is waaaay out front, 36 seconds up on Svartedal.
finish - Bauer takes his fourth win of the Tour de Ski! Svartedal captures second, edging Pankratov by 7/10ths of a second, and jumps up the overall from 29th (2:04 down) to probably second, about half that behind Bauer. Stunningly, none of the other late starters showed up today: the best-placed racer who started near Bauer was Tord Asle Gjerdalen, who finished more than 90 seconds down.

Bauer will take a huge lead into the sprint in Asiago, Italy, on Friday, and - after the usual chicanery with bonus time and such - will probably have a commanding position going into the last two distance races on Saturday and Sunday. Svartedal could well win the sprint, which would vault him further up the standings but probably not quite into first. It's clear that this tour is Bauer's to lose: with this kind of exceptional form, he's the odds-on favorite to do very well in the 20km mass-start race on Saturday and the 11km hill-climb on Sunday.

women's 10km classical (individual start)
start - Much more shuffling is likely in the women's race. As the overall leader, 20-year-old Charlotte Kalla starts last, 30 seconds behind Italian Arianna Follis (not a top-notch classic racer) 60 seconds behind Justyna Kowalzcyk of Poland (pretty good in this technique), and 90 seconds behind Virpi Kuitunen (perhaps the world's best classic-style racer). Kuitunen's plan must be clear: go hard, try to take back as much of her gap to Kalla, and get in position to capitalize on Friday's sprint, where she could take the lead again. Kalla has to maintain her gaps, or at best catch Follis, which would extend her lead, and monitor the time gaps to others ahead of her so as to prevent someone from gobbling up more than thirty seconds or so. Though only four racers are within a half-minute of the lead, nine more are inside a minute - which is about as much time as can be won in a 10km. The most dangerous such racer, starting four minutes ahead of Kalla, Marit Bjorgen of Norway. She'll certainly be trying to recover from her collapse yesterday and regain some time for the last three stages.
0.5km - Well, that was quick: 500 meters in, and Kuitunen already has the lead, 2.1 seconds up on her fellow Finn Aino-Kaisa Saarinen (who's had a poor tour so far), 2.2 over Kalla, and 2.6 over another Finn. Though the race is only 5% over, Kuitunen is more than capable of holding this pace, and could easily regain the overall lead today.
2.2km - It's not happening yet: Saarinen and Kuitunen are essentially sharing the lead, about six seconds up on the young Norwegian Therese Johaug, who started the day midway down the overall, 2:29 behind Kalla. For her part, the leader is still well within striking distance, 7.7 behind the Finns. Follis is bleeding time, as is Bjorgen, and Kowalcyzk is fighting to stay in touch.
3.8km - Status quo at the top, though now Petra Majdic of Slovenia is in fifth, running just behind Kalla. Johaug has cut her deficit to Saarinen to 4.2 seconds - she could be making a big move up the standings.
5.5km - Past halfway, and Saarinen is clearly in the lead now, 5.3 up on Johaug and 6.3 to Kuitunen. Kalla has fallen back to sixth now, trailing Justyna Kowalczyk and the Russian Olga Rotcheva, who was 31 behind Kalla at the day's start. It looks like Kalla is still in the lead overall, though - she hasn't given up so much time that anyone's overtaken her yet.
7.1km - Still Saarinen, Johaug, Kuitunen. Kalla runs 20 seconds behind Saarinen, but only 11 behind Kuitunen, which means she's holding a slim 6 second lead over the Finn. Everybody's picking up a few seconds on Kalla, but nobody is blowing her away.
8.8km - Here comes Kuitunen! She surges past Johaug into second - well behind Saarinen - and now has 19 seconds over Kalla, taking over first in the overall. Rotcheva has cut her deficit to Kalla almost in half. Kowalcyk has closed to Kalla, too, but now is well back of Kuitunen.
finish - Saarinen wins! What an effort - she's the biggest gainer of the day. Kuitunen finishes second, 2.6 behind but more importantly 23 seconds up on Kalla. Virpi takes back the golden bib, 25 seconds up on Kalla. Johaug wound up third, 13.3 down to Saarinen and 12 up on Kalla, but is still in twentieth place overall.. Bjorgen finishes 1:10 down, losing more than a minute to Kuitunen. She’s now in eleventh place, 1:48 down. Kowalczyk is in third, 42 seconds behind Kuitunen and just 3 seconds up on Olga Rotcheva, who moved up from overall sixth to fourth. After starting the day in twenty-first, Saarinen’s big win puts her in sixth overall, 1:17 behind Kuitunen, who is now perfectly positioned for the last three stages. Placing well in the freestyle sprint on Friday will maintain or extend her lead, and then she is likely to do well in the mass-start 10km classical-technique race on Saturday and the grueling 10km freestyle hill-climb on Sunday.



Sitting on her bed as we got ready for bed on New Year's Eve, she was feeling a bit loopy. Touching her wrists and legs, she looked over at me and said, "Daddy, I can feel someone in my body!" I laughed and asked, "Really? Who is it?", fully expecting her to say "Julia." Instead she smiled sleepily and named her best friend. Lesson: the preschooler brain is a weird place.


This afternoon, deep in the throes of the zillionth day of a runny nose and general yuckiness, she appealed for me to pick her up. I did, and walked through the kitchen on my way to some unimportant point B. As I did, she erupted with a screamed proto-word - "Na na na na na!" - and almost tipped out of my arms onto the floor. I held her and tried to figure out what she wanted: Mama? Water? To get down? This or that toy? She shook her head to everything. Finally, moving back to the kitchen, she pointed at the bananas and shrieked, "Nana! Nana!" Lesson: It's tough to be sick, possess low-gradae communication skills, and have an (occasional) dullard for a dad.

Tour de Ski Stage 4 - "Live" Blogging

Neither possessing an internet link fast enough to watch Norwegian TV's internet stream of today's Tour de Ski races nor committed enough to wake up at five a.m. to do so, I'm instead here going to write a pseudo liveblog of the men's and women's pursuits by reading, hours later but without foreknowledge of the outcomes, the official feed of split times and other data, which is generated as the race happens but which I'm only getting around to reading now.

Men's 15km Freestyle Pursuit

start - Tour de Ski overall leader Simen Oestensen of Norway is first out of the gate today, having taken over the tour leader's golden bib with a strong performance in Sunday's sprint in Prague. Starting 12 seconds behind is the man he displaced as leader, the Czech Republic's Lukas Bauer, who is a consummate freestyle technician, who won both of the previous TdS events here at Nove Mesto, and who will have the home crowd's support. A few seconds back of Bauer are two dangerous Norwegians, Tor Arne Hetland and Petter Northug, who bracket the surprising Russian Maxim Vylegzhanin. A number of great racers are further back, but on this course it will be tough to close a gap of more than 30 seconds. Reconsidering my picks yesterday, I think the race is Oestensen's to lose, with Bauer likely to finish second and Northug to wind up third ahead of what will probably be a big bunch sprint.

2.6km - After essentially no change in the gaps at 500 meters, Luka Bauer has already caught and passed Oestensen. Northug, too, has made up a huge chunk of time, and is now just five seconds down to Bauer. Vylegzhanin and Hetland are hovering further back. Surprisingly, no big pack has yet formed; almost everyone else is traveling along or in pairs.

4.25km - Oestensen is hanging tough with Bauer, and Northug has now fallen back - too much too early? - to Hetland and Vylegzhanin, who form a group 15 seconds down on the leading pair. That's not insurmountable, but they'd have to get going asap; the race is a third over.

6.35km - Oops - there goes Oestensen, sliding now down to 5 seconds behind Bauer. Italian Giorgio di Centa has zoomed up from his seventh-placed starting position to third now, in a fuzzy quintet with Northug, Hetland, and two others. Is di Centa fit enough to catch Oestensen or even Bauer, nearly 18 seconds up the course?

8.0km - Now past the halfway point, di Centa has stabilized in a shrinking chase group, about 15 seconds down to Bauer. Oestensen is still traveling backwards, but holding onto second. Barring a fall (which could happen on these twisty trails), the race is Bauer's to lose.

10.1km - That must have been a brutal 2100 meters: the chase pack caught and dropped Oestensen, who's now down in fifth and well within the sights of others further behind. di Centa, Heltand, and Norwegian Tord Asle Gjerdalen make up the chasing group, a long 17 seconds behind Bauer. There's still no real peloton, but big clumps of sixes and sevens. Nobody's moving dramatically up, and Northug's done, all the way down in eleventh.

11.75km - Bauer's still in the lead, 13-some seconds up on di Centa and the two Norwegians. But down the course, Italians Pietro PIller Cottrer annd Valerio Checchi and Czech Martin Koukal are moving up, cutting their deficit to Bauer from 30-some seconds at the last time check to about 21 now. Any of these risers could break through the chase group and get after Bauer or at least the other podium spots - if there's enough snow left.

13.85km - Hetland has fallen well off the pace, leaving the podium to di Centa and Gjerdalen - and Bauer, who has an insurmountable 12 second lead with 1150 meters to go. Piller Cottrer, Checchi, and Koukal are hovering about twenty seconds down, where they're moving with French racer Emmanuel Jonnier. I think the podium is set; there's just not enough space for any of that quartet to catch di Centa and Gjerdalen.

finish - No! They did it! Bauer's won, but only 3.2 seconds up on countryman Koukal and 3.4 on Piller Cottrer. Did Bauer pull up to save energy for tomorrow's 15km classic race? Or was there a fall at the head of the race? Regardless, both di Centa and Gjerdalen were not only passed, but dropped by Piller Cottrer, Checchi, and Koukal. God, the Czech crowd must be going nuts with Bauer and Koukal finishing 1-2. Wow. And this vaults PIller Cottrer and Checchi into serious contention for the rest of the TdS - though of course Bauer's in the driver's seat. On the other hand, today's golden bib, Oestensen, blew up and finished more than 40 seconds down. I hope the women's race is half so entertaining.

Women's 10km Freestyle Pursuit

start - With Norwegian Marit Bjorgen taking a 10-second lead into this race, I think it's hers. She need only coast (for her, a speed well beyond other's top gear) to win. I don't think Italian Arianna Follis will be able to capitalize on her second-place start position, and I do think Justyna Kowalczyk (Poland) and Virpi Kuitunen (Finland) will be able to close their 12- and 14-second gaps to Follis - though not their 22- and 24-second gaps to Bjorgen. Those four are the only racers within 30 seconds of the lead, which is about the maximum distance that can be recouped in such a short race. Who knows, though - maybe Charlotte Kalla (Sweden) can duplicate her success here last weekend and come from 38 seconds down, or maybe Follis will be energized by the Italian men's big day and hold her position. We'll find out in about 30 minutes.

2.2km - I take back what I said! After no change at the 500 meter time check, Bjorgen's lead has dissolved: Follis has caught her already, and Kowalczyk is just 2 seconds back. Kuitunen is just 7.5 seconds down. That is a hell of a lot of sprinting firepower at the head of the race. I wonder if Bjorgen is intentionally holding up, or if she's pulling one of her all-too-frequent one-race-on/one-race-off tricks?

3.8km - Follis in the lead! Bjorgen is in second here, just beyond one-third of the way through the race, and Kowalczyk is there, too, 1.3 seconds down. Kuitunen hovers further back, about 8 seconds down.

5.5km - Bjorgen slips further back and lets Kowalcyk past into second, essentially neck and neck with Follis. And behind, Charlotte Kalla has caught Kuitunen and is now closing on Bjorgen, six seconds ahead. What an acceleration - she was almost 40 seconds down at the start!

7.1km - Kalla's right there in the lead, having now joined Kowalczyk and Follis. Kalla caught and dropped Bjorgen, who's drifting back toward Kuitunen. What a run by Kalla!

8.8km - And it gets better! In the last mile, she's blown up the lead trio and is now a full 6.6 seconds ahead of Kowalczyk, 7.4 on Folllis. The race should be hers! What a great way to prevent another sprint finish like the one she lost to Bjorgen this weekend: just catch and drop the leaders. Can she hold the lead?

finish - Yes, she can hold it and extend it! Kalla wins, 8.5 seconds up on Follis and 10.1 on Kowalczyk. In winning ther first World Cup race, the young Swede exactly exchanged time gaps with Bjorgen, who wound up in ninth, 38 seconds down. What a nightmare for the Norwegian. Kuitunen maintained her fourth position, 17.6 down to Kalla. And in fifth, the German Claudia Kuenzel-Nystad moved up dramatically from 12th to finish half a minute behind Kalla.

All in all, a big day of racing, and good precedent for Wednesday's classic-technique distance races. For the men, Bauer's fitness and classical prowess should keep him in the lead, while I expect Koukal, three seconds behind in second place, to fall back a bit. None of the three Italians in third, fourth, and sixth are known as great classic-style skiers, but of course they're not unskilled, either.  If anyone is poised to move up, it would be Axel Teichmann, who is perhaps the world's best classical-style skier and is now just 35 seconds behind Bauer. Among the women, I think Kuitunen will advance again, perhaps all the way to the lead. Kalla is young and untested in this sort of pressure-filled situation; I see her falling off the lead. Kowalcyk and Follis aren't classic-style technicians like Kuitunen. But behind, Bjorgen could surge again, and any of the Russians who have crept up the standings could move up with a good race, too.

Be It Resolved

Two thousand seven was a very good year. I'll not mind a bit more rest and relaxation in 2008, if that comes to pass, but I'll be a happy guy in twelve months if '08 is half as good as '07 has been. Four things I'll remember about the year:

Genevieve learning to walk and going from a busy little bug to the busiest toddler ever.

Julia starting - and loving - preschool, with all the attendant independence and growth.

Shannon mastering the job of being at home with two kids, which turns out to be exponentially more difficult than being at home with "just" one.

Apart from watching the above happen, my pleasing sense of really contributing at work and my enjoyment of getting back into the fitness swing of things.

Looking forward, here are my resolutions for the next year, in no particular order (and omitting most of the subsidiary goals):

* Eat no potato chips - not quite as horrifying as trying to avoid pizza, but close.
* Continue my fitness activities, from working out almost every day to doing a bit of ski and road racing.
* Get more organized at home and at work, including especially cutting down on post-grad school detritus.
* Cut down on non-family, non-work obligations.

Happy New Year!

Forecast: Significant blowing and drifting, with the possibility of heavy accumulation in rural areas.