I now have twelve Birkie's under my belt. The race was another slow one and my 30th place was not stellar (like Mary Beth Tuttle who got 11th!), but I was very satisfied with it. It was a different year for me than usual since I was assistant coaching the Roseville Area High School Nordic Ski Team this year. It was also a struggle to train with the low snow requiring lots of travel which I don’t have time for and I battled colds all winter. I've never been sick so much in all my life. Not terrible flu-like sick, just the run down mild cold sick, much of the winter. I think I had at least four weeks when I was too run down to do much other than show up for the high school practices and ski around with the kids. The high school team also had quite a few races on the weekends which left me too tired to race on Sunday. So I only had two races in before the Birkie. I did the Baker Shaker for 20k the end of January as my first race and it felt much harder than it normally wood. I skied another 15k after the race and was pretty baked. But the following weekend I did the City of Lakes Loppet, which was only 12k, and felt really good. I even went to Hyland after the race and skied another 30k and still felt pretty good. Then I felt sick again the next day which lasted another two weeks. This was also over the high school section and state races which kept me too busy to train or recover from being sick. A week before the Birkie I finally felt good enough to do something and decided to put in a long hard workout to prep for it. I figured that it didn't make sense to try to rest up when you haven’t been doing anything in the first place. I also figured that I respond quickly to intensity after feeling so good a week after Baker Shaker. So I skied 30k at Wirth on the hills at a good Birkie pace hoping that would at least keep me from bonking at the Birkie. It seemed to do the trick.
On race day I was relaxed and not worrying about how I would do. I had no real expectations given the amount of training I'd done. My only goal was to not lose my elite wave start and wasn't too worried that would happen. I just wanted to enjoy the day. The first 5k often foreshadow the rest of the race. If I'm feeling the hills on the power lines, it doesn't bode well for Bitch Hill. This year the first 5k felt pretty good. The pace set by the others in the wave felt reasonable and the first hills felt fine. I was careful to ski within my limits knowing I would need to so as to not seize up 40k in. As we got off the power lines, the pack started to string out and I ended up in a group of about four of us. After about 15k, two of them started to pull slowly away. Kara Salmela and I discussed it and decided to let them go. They were just a bit faster than we wanted to go and we are old and wise enough to know better. Unfortunately not long before OO, Kara fell for some reason. She had been climbing the hills a bit better than me so I assumed she would catch me back up on the climb to OO. After OO I kept looking back for her but she never materialized, so I was alone pretty much the rest of the way. It wasn't so bad since pockets of men would go by now and then and I’d see someone I knew sometimes. It was comforting to note that as I got closer to the end, the men passed me by at a slower and slower rate than the initial packs did so I figured my pace wasn't falling off too bad. I was also pleased that my legs didn't cramp up like they have in the past. I tend to overuse my thighs which caused hamstring problems and I've been working on using other parts of my body better. This year my whole body got increasingly tired at the same rate rather than mainly the legs, so I must be doing something right! The lake was windy, cold, and miserable as usual. I didn't mind the bridge across Hwy 63 at all, in fact, I enjoyed being shot out on to Main St. So I crossed the finish line, got my 12 year pin, and life was good. I sure was hungry and tired though. My tummy wasn't happy, even after some food. More liquids helped with that eventually. I was so tired I fell asleep on the floor next to the wall in the food building. I think that amused quite a few onlookers (including Katy Splan, who took the picture!), but I’m not proud so I didn't care. I felt much better afterwards. So I felt I had a good race, considering. Most of the people I talked to afterwards said the same thing. Kind of a tough year, but still good.
Next year is lucky 13!