As expected, the field was pretty dang impressive. Like most people, I was 15 minutes faster this year, and also like most people (it seems) I was 10 places further down in the results. 28th last year, and 38th this year. I don't think I could have finished any faster though. From the begining my legs were not feeling great. I was still with the lead pack through most of the power line hills, but I was not too focused on staying with them, and by the first feed stop I was off the back of the (very large) lead pack (side note: this was the first time in 4 years that I was able to get a feed at this first feed station, so that was one major benifit of having the classic skiers start first - it got the feed stations ready for us!). By the 7k mark I was caught by a good pack of skiers that included Bjorn Batdorf, Josh Korn, Matt Weier, and about 3 others. We worked together and caught Tyler Kjorstad and another skier that were a bit ahead of me, and from there we had a really nice pack that skied together for the rest of the race. I was very thankful for the pack. I skied most of the first 80% of the race at the back of this pack of 8 or 10 skiers just trying to get my legs to feel good. I always seem to have crappy legs for the first part of the birkie, but most years I am feeling good by OO, and feeling tired but very good by Bitch hill and have a good finishing kick. This year it took my legs until well after OO to feel ok, and still by Bitch hill I was not feeling like pushing the pace and was just trying to hold onto the group. In the hills after Rosie's field our group started to split up a little bit (I have heard that Bjorn may have had to take an unfortunate pit stop about this time), and I did have the legs to bridge a gap that formed and keep our pack together. On the last flats before the lake a skier from Canada (skiing his first Birkie) made a break, and once again I went to the front of the chase and brough the group together. Once we were on the lake the Canadian and another skier in his first Birkie (you can tell from the "1" written on the bibs) were pulling our group with my self in 3rd. I was perfectly content to let them switch off the leads, meanwhile trying to keep my left tricep from cramping. By the time we got off the lake and on to Main Street I knew that both of those guys were pretty spent. I pulled into the far right lane and sprinted hard to the line. I was the first guy in my pack to the finish (even though the results list Chad Tolbert in front of me).
Which brings up the point: Why is the starting sensor at the 300m mark in the race? Has anyone done a race that starts the chips part way into the race and not at the start line? This just seems stupid. Why not have the starting sensor at... the start!?! My other suggestion is that they instead move the start sensor to the 15k mark for next year, since that is when my legs usually start feeling good anyway.
But despite the timing quirks, this was probably one of the best (if not the best) Birkies I have participated in (this was my 7th). It truly is an experience that every skier should do once (if not once a year!).
Looking at the results I think I can justify saying that I had as good a race as last year when I was 28th. Note: 9 skiers who beat me last year did not race (or were in the classic race). 19 of the skiers who beat me this year did not race last year (or were in the classic race). 3 of the skiers who I beat last year beat me this year, but I beat 3 skiers this year who were ahead of me last year. This seems to point to an extra 10 top elite skiers in the race, and I was 10 spots worse in the results. Makes since to me.
Another side note: for the 3rd year in a row (every year they have had it), the U of MN - Twin Cities was victorious in the Birkie College Team Competition. This year all three scoring U of MN skiers also trained with Vakava: Myself, Bjorn, and Allie Rykken.
The Vakava team as a whole had a fantastic race (especially the ladies!)
Vakava skate finishers:
38 - Nathan Porath
67 - Derek Wallen
72 - Bjorn Batdorf
112 - Andy Schekel
154 - John Keane
160 - Dave Christopherson (age group win)
162 - Dave Bridges
171 - Paul Olson
296 - Brent Oja
5 - Jojo Winters (in the money)
7 - Mary Beth Tuttle (age group win)
14 - Angie Robinson (age group win)
19 - Kathleen Dewahl (age group win)
24 - Cheryl Dubois (age group 2nd, because Mary Beth was in it)
30 - Mel MacMillan
36 - Michelle Oja
43 - Katie Splan
101 - Nichole Porath
51 - Mark Ahlers-Moore
102 - Kevin Ivens
111- Pete Thurmes
11 - Margie Nelson (age group win)
19 - Allie Rykken
This year I unfortunatly was unable to take part in any post-Birkie festivities due to my dental board exams the following day. They went well. I will find out the results in a week or two, and hopfully there will have been no consequenses to doing a 50k race the day before the board exams.
Now it is time to soak up the great spring skiing here in Mn. I took the dog out skijoring yesterday, and today it is supposed to be 45 degrees and sunny. Fantastic.