Monday, February 25, 2013

Birkie 2013!

Well that was a relief. This was my 10th Birkie, and it was considerably better than my 9th.

Last year we had very little snow in Northfield, and I spent almost as many days on rollerskis as on snow during the winter. Then during the race I wasn't smart enough to realize I was not in great shape and on slow skis. I went out WAY too hard and honestly was blowing up by the end of the powerline hills. Oops. Consequently I started this year with bib 103.

Wearing that triple digit made it easy to start on the second line. Plus looking around at the start there sure seemed to be a lot of fast looking European skiers this year. My goal from the start was only to stay relaxed and ski as easy as I could through the powerline hills. Fortunately my skis this year were pretty good (FinnSisu fine grind, Fast Wax HF Green with Flight Cold), and I soon found myself right behind Vakava teammate Derek. It took some pressure off me mentally to just stay right on his tails, and so that is exactly what I did all the way through the powerline hills. At that first feed stop I was excited about how good I still felt - especially compared to how I remember feeling last year! The field had already broken apart, and Derek and I (along with another Vakava skier Eugene) were a part of a large second group skiers that had formed quite early in the race. It probably had to do with the slow snow conditions, but that group stayed pretty much intact all the way to the finish.
Myself (103), Eugene and Derek (36) skiing in the pack (photo: Julie Joy Wenner)
One of my race highlights is always getting to OO and seeing my family cheering me on (and handing me a gel). This year (like every recent year where she has been in the country) my sister was there ready to cheer. Most people bring cowbells to cheer. My sister brings the whole dang cow suit!

Jessica driving to the race
My wife Nichole also managed to get me a gel without falling over. I think she was more nervous for the Birkie than I was, all because of having to hand me a gel!
Me with gel. Nice job Nichole. (photo: Kerry Yndestad)
The second half of the race we continued along in our big group of skiers. I spent almost the entire race in the top 3 or 4 positions in the pack, since I don't like the slinky effect you can get at the back of a long line of skiers going up and down the hills. On the last hills after Rosie's field I even went to the lead of the group. My first couple of Birkies I nearly walked up these hills after bonking so bad, but this year I was feeling quite strong, aside from my left tricep, which kept cramping up every time I would pole hard. Up the hills I could shorten my poling motion, but going across the lake I knew I was in trouble. Every time I would get up on my poles my tricep would twinge, on the brink of cramping. I managed to stay in the group, but a few guys (including Eugene) went around me on the lake, and I was just holding on.

After Rosie's field (photo: Brett Morgan, Birkie.com)
Turing up Main Street I was doing all I could to hang on to my place, but I got passed in the last 20 meters and finished in 40th place overall, 6th in my age group, and 28th American. (To give some perspective, in 2009 when I finished 28th overall, I was the 27th American). The field this year was deep.

I would consider this a very good result for me, and right where I have historically been. Helps to have some snow this year :)

My Birkie history:
2001- 430th (senior year of high school. the top wave 10 skier)
2005- 73rd (senior in college. skiing out of wave 1)
2006- 61st
2007- 84th 
2008- 30th
2009- 28th
2010- 38th
2011- 35th
2012- 103rd
2013- 40th

Vakava had a great day. Some Vakava results highlights:
Birkie skate men:
35th Eugene
40th Nate
41st Derek
98th Ryan
119th Andrew
124th Anthony (east coast vakava crew)

Birkie skate women:
18th Kathleen
20th Mary Beth
31st Bonnie
40th Angie
42nd Carolyn (east coast vakava crew)
52nd Michele
55th Katy

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