Meet some of the Minnesotans skiing at the Masters World Cup

By Mackenzie Lobby Havey Special to the Star Tribune
January 18, 2018 — 4:55pm / Source

A grand skiing competition for the world’s masters arrives in Minnesota; racing begins Saturday.

Most of the recent media coverage involving sporting events in the Twin Cities centers on the upcoming Super Bowl, but Nordic ski buffs are gearing up for their own mega event.

The Loppet Foundation will host the Masters World Cup at Theodore Wirth Park, attracting more than a thousand skiers from more than 20 nations. Athletes, who range in age from 30 to 90-plus, will come to compete in individual races of varying distances (three race per athlete), as well as relays. The World Cup begins Friday and runs through Jan. 26.

Held annually across the Northern Hemisphere, the event is most often hosted by a European nation. The last time it was held in the United States was in McCall, Idaho, in 2008. What makes this World Cup particularly special is that this is the event’s first time in a major metropolitan area.

Offering ideal grounds to stage a championship event, Theodore Wirth Park is widely recognized for its pristine trails all in the shadow of the conveniences of downtown Minneapolis and the surrounding areas. What’s more, The Loppet Foundation’s impressive snowmaking capabilities mean that even with lackluster snowfall, they can still pull off a great event.

The large concentration of cross-country skiers and boosters in the area played a major role in landing the event here in Minneapolis as well. Many of those local athletes will be taking advantage of the opportunity to take on international-level competition here at home. We rounded up four of them to learn more about their training and what they are most looking forward to about World Cup racing.

 

KATE ELLIS
62, Roseville

Year-round Nordic ski coach for The Loppet, other organizations, and individuals

Years skiing?

24. I started skiing at 38.

What races are you competing in at the World Cup?

15-kilometer classic, 10K freestyle, 30K classic

What does a typical training week look like for you?

Usually 10-12 hours a week. I do two weight sessions, two longer easy skis, one 5K race pace interval session, one 15K race pace interval session, a ski-specific strength workout, as well as seven hours of coaching on skis.

Where is your favorite place to ski in the Twin Cities?

Woodland Hills in Elk River for skating and Theodore Wirth for classic.

What are you most looking forward to about racing at the Masters World Cup?

The opportunity to compete in races where there will be only women in my age class. Racing is about putting it all on the line. When I race I try to ski the perfect race energy-wise, as well as tactically, so that when I cross the finish line I have emptied myself. When that happens, I am totally satisfied and content to sit and ‘just be.’

What other activities do you do in the offseason?

Marathon canoe-racing, biking, canoe triathlons, jewelry- making, and a monthlong adventure each summer, which have included paddling trips in the Arctic, hiking the Haute Route in Europe and paddling the Columbia River Gorge.

MARK JOHNSON
30, Minneapolis

Medical student (final year!)

Years skiing?

Since I was 2 — thanks to my parents — so I guess that is 28 years.

What races are you competing in at the World Cup?

10K freestyle, 35K classic, 45K freestyle

What does a typical training week look like for you?

I organize my schedule around learning medicine and providing patient care, so this means a somewhat opportunistic training schedule. I’m able to ski most days of the week this time of the year. My favorite workouts are those focused on strength and speed, which means drills to improve my ability to go up hills and speedily navigate technical parts of the ski trail.

Where is your favorite place to ski in the Twin Cities?

On a calm and clear evening, the trails of Theodore Wirth offer a silent and shimmering view the Minneapolis skyline — a highlight and unique feature not offered on most ski trails. It’s important to recognize the snowmaking efforts occurring across the metro. Those efforts make the ski season last as long as possible when there is little natural snow.

What are you most looking forward to about racing at the Masters World Cup?

Sharing the spirit of skiing with people from different cultures is invigorating, and the world is arriving in Minneapolis. I am looking forward to welcoming skiers to Minneapolis and showing off the supportive ski community that exists here in a metropolitan setting.

What other activities do you do in the offseason?

Coaching skiing with Loppet Nordic Racing, canoe-racing/trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, mountain/road biking, indoor rock climbing, and harvesting maple syrup with my family in northern Minnesota.

JIM AGRE
67, Excelsior

Professor, Department of Rehabilitation, University of Minnesota Medical School

Years skiing?

45. I started skiing in the winter of 1972-73, when I was a freshman medical student at the University of Minnesota.

What races are you competing in at the World Cup?

15K classic technique, 10K classic technique and 30 km classic technique. If I am so lucky, it would be great to ski a 5K leg of the 4 x 5K relay race, too. To do this, however, I would need to be named to my age group’s national team.

What does a typical training week look like for you?

Since returning home after completing the 2017 Norwegian [Birkebeiner], I put away my snow skis and got out my bicycle and roller skis. From the end of March until the end of November, I would typically roller-ski seven hours per week and cover 100K. I would also ride my bicycle four hours per week. Once per week I would perform a series of high intensity interval exercises. I also would spend about two hours per week on ski-specific strengthening exercises, as well as work on improving my balance and flexibility. When the snow flew at Elm Creek, Hyland Lake Park Reserve, and Theodore Wirth, I got out the skis. I’ve skied an average five hours and 70K per week. I have continued my strength, balance and flexibility exercises as well.

Where is your favorite place to ski in the Twin Cities?

Theodore Wirth is my favorite, especially the trail at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and the bog. I have been skiing there since I started skiing in 1972. Other personal favorites are Hyland and Baker parks.

What are you most looking forward to about racing at the Masters World Cup?

I am really looking forward to the camaraderie of skiing with skiers from around the world. I am anticipating a very wonderful event and look forward to making new friends from around the globe.

What other activities do you do in the offseason?

Living only 300 meters from Lake Minnetonka, I enjoy getting out on the lake with my wife in a kayak or canoe. I also have an almost 11-year-old St. Bernard, and my wife and I often take Beyla out for walks in the neighborhood or in the woods.

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