Thursday, May 29, 2008


How do you know if you are prepared for a 100 mile run? How many miles do you need to run per week/month? How long does your longest run need to be? Food, hydration, electrolytes, socks, shoes, foot care, flashlights, batteries, clothing, sunscreen, bug everything in order and accounted for? Is the "crew" trained and ready? Am I do this?

I don't know if I can answer all of these questions but I have given it my "best shot" in preparation. In 8 days I will need to give it my "best shot" in a 100. I am truly looking forward to this event and the challenge and hardship to complete this goal.

It sounds strange and crazy to most run 100 miles, but to me and many others in the ultra running community...we understand. Most people I know ask me "why?". I tell them the usual "challenge" explanation and I still get "but why?". Sometimes I will reply "why a 10k or a half marathon or a marathon?". I don't think most people give themselves enough credit for what they can achieve physically. Usually, after a full discussion about running a long event, people seem genuinely interested and excited to know what the outcome will be. I think I either have really good friends and family or they want to stop talking about running and move on to something else in the conversation.

Which brings me back to the I prepared?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Blog name

(Rescue of Haakon Haakonsson, painted by Knud Bergslien 1869)
I had a couple of people ask me about what my blog name meant, so this entry is in response to those inquiries.

I was having trouble coming up with a blog name and asked my 15 year old son Jakob to help brainstorm some ideas that related specifically to running, trail running and ultras. We came up with all kinds of crazy names, but in the end, nothing really seemed to fit. Later that night we teamed up with my wife Michelle and she mentioned using a translation of the Norwegian ski race name "Birkebeiner" to English, which is "birch legs". This seemed to fit well because my last name, Bjerkness (Norwegian) translates as "birch point".

My relatives came from an island in Norway called Byrknesoy or "birch point island". When arriving in America the spelling was changed slightly to "Americanize" the name, even though it may not seem so American. We still have some relatives that live on that island and also in Bergen, a city on the east coast.

So why not just name the blog "birch point"? Well, we thought having legs in the name was a good fit for running, but especially relevant to trail running, as birch trees are very prevalent in the forests of Minnesota and Norway alike.

Now for a Norwegian history lesson:

Birkebeiner is a term for a ski race but it means so much more than that to the people of Norway. In 1206 the Birkebeiner (named so because of the birch leggings used to keep snow away from their lower legs while skiing) set out on a dangerous mission to rescue the future king of Norway, Haakon Haakonsson IV, from the Swedes (see photo above). In fact, part of their route is the current course for the cross-country ski race, Birkebeinerrennet, from Rena to Lillehammer. In this race, it is required to carry a pack weighing 3.5 kg in remembrance of this brave mission.
In Norway it is remarkable how many people run, hike, ski, orienteer, bike or otherwise recreate in the woods and mountains around their country, not unlike the trail running community here. Having lived there for a year in Hammar, I was able to experience the joy of these activities first hand, which has impacted my life tremendously.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Superior trail

Superior trail.

That pretty much sums up the experience on Saturday at the Superior 50K/25K. This trail never ceases to amaze me even though I have run this course a couple of times and hiked portions of it as well. Besides the apparent beauty of the area, it is the ruggedness of the trail and terrain that appeal to me most. I think it taps into my primal instincts to endure...and that it did as I ran the 50K course.
It was a crisp morning at 39 degrees, blue skies and a brisk wind out of the west, perfect conditions for a trail race.
I found Matt Patten before the start and we chatted for a few minutes. He introduced me to Pierre Ostor, Carl Gammon and Steve Quick, all of whom are experienced runners.
The race start was low key, which is common for trail races..."just let me get a picture and then you can start". This is one of the reasons why I love this sport, the laid back approach is a perfect fit for trail races, as well as ultras.
I won't get very detailed in this race report, but I wanted to point out the highs and lows of the day.
The race was progressing nicely for me and I was comfortable in my pace through the first aid station. I was talking to a runner behind me for a while after this checkpoint and I inadvertently missed a turn in the trail that was well marked by flags. We continued up the trail which switch backed 3 times and came to another fork in the trail, which just happened to have a primitive map on a tree. I stopped because I did not see any markers for which way to go and I started getting a bad feeling about what happened. We decided to turn around and find the last trail marker, but on the way down we ran into a couple other runners, and one was convinced it was the right way. We turned around again and ran back up a couple of hundred yards to the split in the trail with no markers and that's when I blurted out to the other 4 guys "I don't know about you, but I'm going this way" and I took off running back down the trail. I looked back after the first switchback and saw them all coming back down, which made me feel better, as within a few minutes we were back at the intersection with flagging pointing us in the right direction.
This was a long winded explanation of a minor issue in a trail race but it took me about 20 minutes to finally calm myself down and realize that I could not let this "get to me" because I had hours of running ahead.
The rest of the run out to the turn around was comfortable and it was good to start seeing other runners coming back towards the finish. I "high fived" Matt on the way down Carlton Peak and attempted to give most people I saw encouragement as I ran past. The rest of the run back to the finish was uneventful, and for the most part, I was comfortable and relaxed. What struck me the most about this run is that I had extra "gears" to use, meaning I could surge when I wanted to and ease back when I needed to.
After a couple of the switchbacks on Mystery Mt. I began to push the pace all the way to the finish and it felt like I was gliding over the last few miles of trail.
Overall, my goal of beating last years time was met (20 min.), but I really was looking for having a comfortable and relaxed run and having fun in my final preparation race for the Kettle Moraine 100.
Thanks to the race directors, volunteers and other runners on a great day!
I can't wait to go back.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Posting my first blog seemed like an easy task at first, but once I started trying to get things organized, I became apprehensive to actually "publish" my comments and try to live up to some of the blogs in the ultra running community. Having the beginnings of a blog page started I figured the day has finally arrived to, at the very least, jot a couple of thoughts down and get this thing bear with me.

Just finished a solid couple of weeks of training in my preparation for the Kettle Moraine 100 on June 7-8. Last week I was able to put in 80 miles with a long run of 35 miles at Hyland Park on Saturday. It was a soggy slog, but effective in its results...tired legs and feeling like I had more to give.

The previous week I put in a total of 70 miles with a combination of a 30/20 on two consecutive days. I have heard from a number of sources that pairing the 30/20 run concept can be a good way of preparing for a 100 miler without having to put your body through the rigors of extremely long runs. Running 30 miles one day and running 20 miles the next is a training tool to simulate running on tired legs, mind and attitude. My experience included running 30 miles at Hyland Park that ended up going into the evening hours and testing my headlamp and night running skills, followed by an early morning run about 7 hours later of 20 miles along the Minnehaha Creek and River road in Minneapolis. I definitely found what I was looking for during the last 10 miles of that run. I would recommend this training concept to anyone preparing for 50-100 mile races that has a good base of training. I guess I'll find out how effective it was in about a month.

This is a recovery week for me that includes some runs on the shorter side and lots of active recovery, stretching and rolling (massage). This week ends with the Superior Trail 50K on Saturday. I'm looking forward to getting back up on the is such a blast to run that trail!

Congratulations go out to Matt Patten on his strong performance at the Ice Age 50 on Saturday, finishing 7 min. ahead of last years time and having some war wounds to show for it. Nice job Matt!

One last note:
At the end of the day, I hope that the information I pass along will be somewhat interesting and sometimes helpful for athletes and non athletes alike.

...maybe this blogging gig won't be as hard as I thought.

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Minneapolis, MN, United States