Birkie Bash 2018I’m always extra nervous before the Birkie because this is like the World Championships for citizen racers and I always want to do well. Add to that all those uphills and lack of confidence is my striding ability, and I’m quite a mess the week before the Birkie. So this year I decided to be a bit more proactive on managing my stress and become my own sports psychologist (because I’m a do-it-yourself kind of person). Here’s the three things I decided to focus on:
First, follow the wax recommendations. I don’t know why this is sooooo hard for me. Maybe because when I first started waxing the wax companies didn’t post wax recommendations (or if they did I wasn’t privy to them) and so I always decided how to wax based on the forecast. While I now look at these recommendations, I also always look at the weather forecast and somehow think I can “outsmart” these recommendations. So this time around I told myself to just follow the wax company recommendations, especially for kick.
Second, focus on skiing technically well. I’ve previously declared my intention to actually stride the Birkie and I’ve done a ton of work on this (at least on the classic rollerskis where I’ve seen much improvement). Hopefully if I follow my first pillar my kick will be good, and the glide should be good, so I should be able to stride. Skiing well also involves good technique and power with double poling, implementing some kick double pole, and skiing the downhills well.
Third, enjoy the day. This is probably what those later wave skiers are doing (or at least until they get really tired) but something that would likely make me happier if I took some time to do this and might even help me ski faster. So as part of my racing strategy, I made it a point to put some energy towards appreciating the scenery which will involve looking in the woods. I’ll set me watch to beep every kilometer and after that I will take a look in the woods to enjoy the scenery.
|The day of the Birkie was gorgeous with a combination of new snow and frost hanging on the trees. Photo: Bruce Adelsman|
Before the race I didn’t think too much about my pacing. I tend to do a good job of self-pacing out there and hold back a bit before OO. I like to ski my own classic race, especially with so many big uphills on the first half of the course and then start pushing the pace after OO.
I also thought about all the hours I’ve trained and raced this year to be prepared for Birkie 2018 and all those hours over the past 16 plus years. And then that Olympic Gold Medal won by Kikkan and Jessie on my birthday week was certainly extra inspiring!
So how did I do with the above?
Well, I finally sanded (or more correctly, Erik sanded, after we disagreed on the grit of sandpaper to use, but fortunately Google resolved that argument) my kick zone since stonegrinding my skis. Then I actually used a hard wax binder (that I think I put on too thick and really should have put outside to let cool) before corking in 7 layers of V45 (the “warmer” kick wax recommendation by SWIX. This combination felt a bit draggy, especially early on, and was slightly grabby on the lake but otherwise gave me great kick. Again, I think I put the binder on too thick and didn’t heat it in quite enough to get it really smooth either. I arrived to the start late as usual and did a very short test loop. My skis weren’t icing so I didn’t make any adjustments.
When I got in the start pen with the other Elite Wave Classic skiers, I noted there seemed to be lots of women, particularly fast looking women. I didn’t have much time to chat and got in about the fourth row behind a fast looking woman. When the gun went off it seemed we took it out harder than in previous years. I found myself double poling outside the tracks. While it would have been nice to be in the tracks, it was also easier to get around people outside the tracks.
|I'm bummed I was too slow to ski with this guy:( Vakava is talking about getting new suits next year and I think we should do something to this effect. Photo: Bruce Adelsman|
After High Point there’s some flatter areas and downhills which made every uphill that much worse. I was already really tired- but remembering back to years previous, I don’t think it was any different than any of those other years.
My buddy Dave passed me 3 kms out from OO when we really started climbing. He wasn’t particularly fast up those big climbs to OO and he didn’t gain too much on me but really took off double poling at the Korte start area.
I did finally change my watch from miles to kilometers and set it to beep every 1 km. Mostly I felt it vibrate on my wrist. Every time I thought about looking in the woods and enjoying the beautiful day, but mostly I just focused on the trail in front of me to keep my balance and avoid falling down. By doing this I was still able to appreciate the snow clinging to the trees.
After OO we joined with the skaters. Now a steady stream of Wave 1 skaters were passing me- a handful of these skiers knew me and we gave each other some cheers which is always fun! The tracks were now glazed and the kilometers ticked by faster. This was such a relief to my exhausted self. After OO I believe I was passed by just one Wave 1 classic guy and slowly reeled in about 10 Wave 1 guys who had passed me prior to OO.
|Just past OO and now skiing alongside the Wave 1 skate guys. Check out the glitter snowflakes on my cheeks! They really show up in this photo if you zoom in! Photo: Bruce Adelsman|
It was also on this hill I got a glimpse of the woman who had dropped me on the climb to High Point. With just over 10 km left and some double poling I made it my goal to catch her. It took me about 5 km until we climbed that really evil hill coming out of the last Aid Station. I was a spent force and while I did some striding on that hill, I also did some shuffle running outside the tracks on the steeper parts. Then sorry to say I couldn’t maintain a tuck the entire way down the next very long hill as my quads were just too tired. I fared similarly on the last big uphill after crossing 77: probably some striding but also just some shuffle running. Two years ago I remarked that I really wanted to stride all these hills beautifully, you know, like Marit winning the 30 km classic at the Olympics (hey, a girl can dream) but I probably just looked like a tired citizen racer out there. It would be so interesting if a drone was following me the whole time so I could see my technique albeit that would be a very boring replay.
Erik always gives me a hard time for not feeding enough on course. I don’t want to be bogged down with my drink belt so rely on the air stations. This mostly works out well. I took a total of 3 gels (or more accurately parts of gels) and 4 Nuun drinks which is probably the most I’ve ever taken out there so figured that was an accomplishment.
|I was motivated to keep skiing fast in the Birkie in case I might get another sweet Age Class Prize such as this shirt I sported last year on a run in Central Park. Photo: Erik|
I ended up 16th of 374 women. This was a bit disappointing since I was 11th two years ago. Comparing my results to 2016 this year I skied 5 minutes faster (although the course was slightly shorter). Hitting the kick was was also significantly easier this year and so my hunch is that I do better compared to others when we’re all struggling with kick and a bit worse when the kicking is good. Oh well, I still finished 147 of 1,735 overall in the classic.
|Sporting my Birkie Age Class shirt in snowy Banff in June last year! Photo: Erik|
|My latest bling. Not quite as good as the wicking shirt but I did put this thing to use immediately to cheer on some of the late finishers in the Birkie.|