Vakava Team Photo

Vakava Team Photo
Vakava Racers at the Mora Last Chance Race

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Classic Birkie: February 20th, 2016 (My 31st Birthday)

At the expo, I got Kikkan Randall to write Happy Birthday on my bib. Note it's also Birkie #10 for me...halfway to Birchleggings!

As the Birkie got closer and the forecast called for warm conditions, it was looking like this would be a klister year! I tried not to panic and made a plan.

  1. Think about the worst possible kick wax scenario: (as in not as bad as getting sick or being injured) really bad icing. I mean like a foot of snow under my kick zone. Race over at that point. So in the event I had on klister and we got a bunch of new snow, I made a plan to bring with a kickwax scraper and some V30 to cover the remaining klister I couldn’t scrape off.
  2. Pretty much anything is better than icing so it will be OK. The first year I classic skied the Birkie I didn’t have great kick and still placed fairly well. Typically most people don't have great kick with klister so I figured most others would be in the same boat as me. I adjusted expectations from bomber kick to decent kick.
  3. Try to actually make a plan. I wanted to go with Thin to Win since I love double poling. I shortened my kick zones to accommodate klister and planned to put it on thin. I have Rex Brown and Rex was recommending Brown; however, I haven’t had great kick on Brown and so wanted to do something a bit different. I consulted the BNS catalogue and learned about Rex Gold- for coarse or glazed conditions. I had a hunch at 33 degrees (as forecasted) and climbing to the High Point that things would be coarse and glazed so I had Erik stop by Finn Sisu on his way home from work to pick this up. Then I planned to bring Rex Brown to the start and arrive in enough time to make a wax change if needed.
  4. Phone a friend. It’s always good to have some validation that I’ve made a good choice, so I phoned my friend Andy Brown, who posted a blog on klister earlier this season:
    He’s had good luck with Rex Gold in the past and thought it might work.
  5. Remember that things will be OK. Not confident? Check out this video of YOLO wax recommendations and things will be better:
  6. Rely on your husband. Erik and I have figured out a good 2 person system for klister application (Erik might not agree with this). Back in December we had a lot of klister conditions on artificial snow and I did a lot of classic skiing. I move the skis and heat the klister with the heat gun while Erik applies the klister and then uses a rubber glove to spread the klister!
  7. Remember to invite Andy Brown to your wedding so he will buy you a heat gun! Probably one of the most useful gifts we received.
  8. Apply the plan: I got to the start, tested my skis, and had zero kick. I heard Brown was kicking. I had just enough time to scrape the Gold off my skis (I had brought a piece of paper to put the scraped klister on; I didn’t want the klister too thick). Then I applied a layer of Brown. When my thumb started bleeding, I decided it was as smooth as it was going to get.

    Rex Brown is truly brown in color and I learned Rex Gold is gold in color!

The Race
    Starting in the Elite Wave is chill. This was my second year in the Elite Wave and it is so great to just get in the starting pen and not have to worry about getting in the pen early and then running for a front row position. Everyone knows everyone in the Elite Wave and we all self seed.
    We started at a fairly pedestrian pace. As we started climbing, I was glad to know I had decent kick. About 2 km in, I didn’t feel like I was working very hard and got tired of being slowed by the guy in front of me, so I made a break. As soon as I made that break, I started breathing a lot harder.
    A couple women passed me on the Powerlines and then I didn’t see any women in the rolling section until just before the 9 km aid station when Margie Nelson passed me. I got in front of her on the downhill but as we began the long climb towards High Point, she quickly got away. I’m not very good at striding and less than ideal kick doesn’t help. I always struggle on the climb to High Point and this year was no different. Before we reached the High Point, Kate Ellis, Julia Curry, and Lynne Cecil had all passed me. I made no attempts to ski with any of these women.
    Each year I forget that after High Point there is a nice double pole section and the climbs become less relenting. I passed back Lynne in this double pole section and soon CXC skier Niki  Rekker as well. I do much better on this flatter, more rolling terrain and finally started racing, trying to chase those in front of me. No more women passed me. 
In passing mode after OO. Photo: Skinnyski

    On the long climbs to OO I could see a woman in front of me. Just after OO I passed her. I had been passed by many Wave 1 men throughout the race; most I never saw again, but a few I leap-frogged with for a few kilometers, and a few more I saw again in the last few kilometers. All but one of the men who passed me made a clean pass and stayed out of my way. Once we had joined up with the skaters, there was one guy who passed me and then seemed to really slow down. I had no idea how he could have made up 5 minutes on me as he was going so slow. I made a decisive move on an uphill.
    A couple kilometers later, I came up on Julia Curry. We skied together for a bit. She is very good at striding and I enjoyed following her strides. I am much better at striding on shorter hills when I am skiing behind someone. My double poling is stronger and was thinking about making a break as I was hoping to be top 10 and thought I still had a couple more women to chase down. When that Wave 1 guy, the one who went super slow, came back up on us, I decided it was time to move on. I skied hard over the top of a hill and was gone.
    Since it was my birthday, I wrote “It’s My Birthday” on the back of my bib. I realized this would be appreciated, or unappreciated, largely by Wave 1 men. I got a good number of “Happy Birthdays” on the course which made me smile and hopefully others had fun with this as well. I’m a pretty serious person; however, I really crave spontaneity and think people in general are too serious. I got passed by a Wave 1 skater in a cow suit and told him I liked his costume but was disappointed it wasn’t my friend Jeff Lanners. 
The back of my bib on my 31st birthday.

    No one really looks forward to the hill climb out of Mosquito Brook but with all the cheering AND that Wave 1 guy toggling with me again I put in a surge. It’s Ditto with the newly named Holy Hill, but I saw a Vakava suit in front of me and wanted to catch them so mostly ran the hill.
    Coming out of the last aid station I was impressed with a Wave 1 skier who started singing Happy Birthday to me! I passed fellow Vakava skier Andrew Kromroy and kept going. I had no energy to try a glide-stride in the tracks so just ran up the hill on the skate deck. Looking up the hill, I caught a glimpse of a pink bib which gave me motivation to keep pushing harder. I enjoyed the double poling on Rosie’s Field before the last big climb.
    After crossing 77, I could tell I was gaining on the pink bib who turned out to be Kate Ellis. I caught her at the top of the hill but dawdled a bit to hear Ingrid Remak play the accordion! Once Kate realized I was on her tail, she put in a surge. Kate is twice my age and I’ve been trying to catch her in skiing and canoeing for the past 10 years. She is a huge inspiration for me regarding what I might be like in 30 years. Immediately my striding improved as I followed Kate’s perfect stride-glides. I smiled to myself, thinking, “what a birthday treat to ski behind Kate.” My skis were fast and I pulled ahead of her on a big downhill. Then it was flat to and across the slush pit lake. I was by myself and felt double poling was the fastest technique but put in a few kick double poles to stay fresh. Here I passed back up some Wave 1 skiers as well as another Elite Wave male who shall not be named.
I hadn’t seen any pink bibs in front of me for awhile but as I made the last corner, a pink bib went up and over the bridge. The chase was back on as I gave it my all to the finish to try and catch bib #606, Ingrid Leask, but in the end I ran out of real estate.
Two years ago I finished in 16th place and last year I finished in 15th place. I was less than 5 minutes out of top 10 last year and set that as my goal this year. Given that I was super nervous on the bus ride to the start, this usually indicates I’ll have a good race. I was 11th place, 7 seconds out of top 10 this year. For the third week in a row, I’ve finished short of my placement goal, but I have set very aggressive placement goals for this year and therefore just being close is an accomplishment. Comparing the much larger overall field (men and women), this year I finished 124th and last year I was 178th so I think that shows big improvement.
A couple nights before the Birkie, I had a dream in which I got another hat as an age class award. I was quite upset about this because I have way too many hats. My dream came partially true on Friday night when I picked up my bib and got a NEW HAT! Just what I needed. Then, I finished first in my age class (women 30-34). I have placed in my age class in each of the last 4 Classic Birkies. When I picked up my age class award, guess what I got? A NEW HAT! I now have a blue “3rd place age class” hat, a red “2nd place age class” hat, and a new “1st place age class” hat. I guess the Birkie doesn’t expect people to win year after year. Erik tells me I should do the “real race,” (the skate race) where I would be extremely unlikely to get an age class award.
While I agree my Birkie age class paraphernalia is becoming excessive, I’m still learning to stride-glide efficiently. Every time I do this for more than about 5 seconds, I get so out of breath. I’ve made huge strides (no pun intended) on my striding technique but still have a long ways to go to stride-glide relaxed. Over the past couple years I’ve been able to V-1 in level one up hills; I’m hoping I’ll get there striding and until I do so, I might just keep classic skiing the Birkie.
My ridiculous collection of Birkie age class hats and this year's participation hat. The hat I dreamed about looked something like in out of a Dr. Seuss book.


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