Big Blog – Nationals 30km, Sisu Ski Fest, Seeley Hills

Posted by Matt Liebsch on Jan 21st 2016

Big Blog – Nationals 30km, Sisu Ski Fest, Seeley Hills

I apologize for cramming a lot into this update; the last 2+ weeks have flown by.

Ok, the 30km at Nationals, this was my target race for Nationals. I had a week off from work, tapered, rested, performed and felt great earlier in the week during the 15km classic. My expectation was the podium. Unfortunately, I did not execute as well as needed to hit my goal. The race unfolded very well and I found myself at the front of the race very quickly. My skis were running great after testing a bunch of old and new skis. I ended up racing on an older pair of S-Lab skis with an LZ2 grind, the same pair Brian Knutson and I picked from the wall at Gear West in the fall of 2009 and I raced to a top 30 on the World Cup that February. I don’t believe that ski is “magical” as much as the LZ2 grind was money all week in Houghton and unfortunately, I only had that grind on one pair of new Carbon skis that had a colder profile.

From talking with a number of teams and athletes, having fast skis for the skate day was hit or miss. Many teams had mixed results even with all athletes on the same wax. And even teams that had athletes on same wax and same brand still had mixed results with glide. The key seemed to be a ski that had good tension underfoot but needed tip and tail splay to reduce surface contact with the warmish new snow. My softer skis and skis with colder profile did not work well and my very firm pairs did not feel great either. Finding an average ski was easy but finding competitive skis was a bit more challenging in the new warmish snow.

Back to the race, around the 5km mark I took a fall after getting my ski tip snagged on the side of the trail trying to pass someone. This took me from top 10 to a position around 30th. I made quick work to move back into the top 10 (probably too quick) and as soon as I regained my chill position I saw Kevin Sandau and Scott Patterson attack off the front of the race. Currently, these are two of the strongest skiers in North America and together they could have stayed away. Brian Gregg chased hard to close the gap and I was in the front of a group chasing him. I managed to catch Brian and eventually we closed the gap to Kevin and Scott. Unfortunately, I burned too many matches catching up after my fall and then closing a gap to 3 of the strongest skiers on the continent. The next 17km went by pretty uneventfully, and I had the feeling I was still going to attack for a podium during the closing kms. The hill before “launch point” my legs went from feeling great to feeling like cement within a span shorter than 60sec… I think the early race leading and then falling and then chasing emptied the tank a little bit too much. My good friend Tad Elliot attacked with 3km to go at the exact place I was planning to launch. He ended up winning and Brian was 2nd which was awesome for both of my buddies!

Tad article HERE on Faster Skier.
Big photo set HERE on

After the race in Houghton, I packed up and headed for home. A quick day at work on Friday and then headed back north to Ironwood, MI for the Sisu Ski Fest marathon with my family minus the baby. I didn’t have time to re-wax so I used a pair of Carbon skis from the 30km at Nats that I didn’t race on. It had Swix FC7X, a colder profile, and an LZ2 grind. Start temp was 20F and new snow and by the finish it was 10F and snowing. I was worried I was waxed too warm but my skis ran very well for most of the race. The trails at ABR are great and the race is really well done, fun stuff! I skied most of the race with Alex Vanias… newer to skiing but the kid is fast already! I pulled a “Northug” with less than 2 km to go and was happy to get my first marathon win of the season; while rocking a new Lumberjack suit! After the race we hit the Liberty Bell Chalet which is an Ironwood ski trip tradition for excellent pizza/Italian.

This past weekend was the Seeley Hills classic and I was excited to race it with one of my best friends and training partner Brian Gregg. Brian has been extremely consistent and fit this year so I knew it was going to be a battle. Waxing was simple as the temp was -6F. For glide, I was on Swix HF4X (the new stuff… much better than the old HF4, this stuff actually works much of the time) and for kick, not sure, Jenny Beckman grabbed something green and put on 2 layers over a thin binder of Swix VG35. I was on the “thin-to-win” kick and yes, I did loose some kick over the course of the race but I was Ok with that as the skis got faster. For reference I was on the same pair of Carbon Classic skis I used at nationals with the same LJ02-S grind. Brian Gregg wanted us to double pole the entire 42km race as he thought it would be a good workout and we could still compete for the win… but with the temps as cold as predicted that idea was axed. The race itself was super fun with Brian and me taking turns attacking each other. I was feeling better and better as the race progress and tired mightily to drop BG with 2km to go on the steep picnic table hill. Unfortunately I was doing a very quick and narrow herring-bone and got my pole caught between my skis. That quick fall gave away my first place position and with a downhill finish plus other short course skiers in the way, I did not get a clean lane to challenge for the photo finish… but that is backwoods marathon racing and if I had keep on my feet it would have help things. After the race my wife and I took the kids out for pancakes at Norske Nook… so good.

Now its time to get some midseason training into the body before a few more marathons including the Mora Vasaloppet, maybe some east coast Super Tours and of course the BIRKIE… I have the fever…

- Matt Liebsch

-Posted by Matt Liebsch on Jan 21st 2016