Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sue McNatt's Birkie Report

Here is Sue's side of the story.

Birkie Fever-caught it!!

So, we headed out on Valentine’s Day (Midwest Express supplied the romantic cookies and leather seats) to our homeland of cheese and snow.
There was some concerned talk of no snow in southern dairyland and all skiers were anxiously checking for updates. We would spend
4 days in Madtown with Terry’s parents, playing indoor mini-golf and dragging friends out to ski on a marginal 2k loop at a local park. We also tried a new approach to endurance event prepartion-cheese loading (makes you faster on the downhills with plenty of reserve calories!) Then we embarked on an uneventful (only interrupted by our quest for good coffee and a McDonalds) drive 5 hours north to meet my family in Hayward, WI, home of the American Birkebeiner, the world’s largest Musky, the world lumberjack championships and the National Fishing Hall of Fame (among other things). There is always some nervous anticipation to find out what our lodging situation would be like and this year proved no different. My parents called nervously from their cell phone to report that their Hybrid vehicle could not make it up the icy
driveway. Once the local service folks were called in for sanding, we
could all make it safely up and were pleasantly surprised by the newish home on Teal Lake, about 20 minutes drive to the start line of the Barnebirkie. This is the kid’s event the next day in which 1200 youngsters vie for position and ski to the finish of the world famous ski race to be greeted by generous amounts of homemade cookies, hot
chocolate and medals. It is a must see event! All 3 of our kids
participated and only fell down a collective 4 times!

The rest of the family arrived later that day, so now we had 14 folks piled into the 3 bedroom-2 bath home!! At least we all love each other (or we did before that weekend). A new arrival this year included a 16 year old Denmark student staying with my sister’s family for a year.
This was her first season of skiing and she was skiing in the 23k Korteloppet!! Ah, to be young and learn new tricks so quickly!

Friday passed uneventful except that my sister’s family got to meet Bjorn Dahle, and have him sign various articles of clothing and ski scrapers-cool!!

The usual carbo loading and cake/ice cream loading occurred that evening as well as several rounds of waxing. A strategy session was scheduled in between games of Sequence to determine how and when we would head to the start line. Also, discussions of “to GU or not to GU” and my brother-in-laws grand idea of potatoes in his waterbottle-huh?! In the pre-race darkness of the next morning, we were greeted to an inch or so of fresh snow and 15 degrees temps , not the
0-5 degrees predicted. Nervous talk of re-waxing occurred but instead we had our prerequisite bowl of oatmeal and LARGE mugs of coffee. We headed out in the van-all 8 of us (7 skiers and one driver-kudos to my niece’s boyfriend-they sure come in handy!) Despite a very snowy drive down a narrow 14 mile scenic road we reached the lodge in plenty of time. This was just too easy! Oh, Leif forgot the potatoes!

Wave 1 and 2 skiers headed to the start line immediately. I enjoyed seeing the elite men and women starts this year and then suddenly realized I had better get into my starting gate. A last minute glove swap and I frantically tied up my gear bag and tossed it in the truck.
Since this was my first full 50k event, 13 years and 3 children later, I decided on a relaxed start. I calmly lined up on the far right (also my starting strategy at Weston) about 5 rows back and enjoyed the idle pre-race chatter. The 2 men next to me were discussing recent stress tests and certain cardiovascular issues (hmm, do I try to get in front of them lest I end of performing CPR!) The start is always a fanfare of excitement with lots of music and colors and skiers falling and poles flailing. After an extended double pole fest, protecting my skies and poles from harm(Weston has also prepared me for this) I tried some mini-V1 strokes only to brush my neighbor’s skies. Alas, I relaxed again and double-poled some more on the soft snow on the sides until we opened up a bit before the Power Line hills. Steady climbing and I felt really great. I tried not to check my splits until 10k because I knew that it would be slow . I had a silly crash at about 8k on a sharp right hand turn. Amazingly my fellow wave 2 skiers managed to miss plowing into me. At OO(23K) I was happy and feeling good. I took 3 cups of Energy. Just after that I was passed by a young(26) year old girl in a very blue suit, chatting enthusiastically with a friend. How could she chatter so much when I was sucking wind? I kept my eye on her the rest of the race and slowly closed the gap. I also skied for a while with ice-bearded GU man. I would pass him on the uphills and he would get me back on the downhills!
I managed a fast 10k after 00, then some more hills and suddenly we had 10k to go. I kept telling myself the last 5k was downhill to the lake, then flat for 3k. Easy!! Some hills popped up out of nowhere with 4k to go then a nasty headwind with snow greeted us on the lake. The flat gray light and the scene of about 50 skiers, heads down , willing themselves along to the finish was awesome and a bit spooky.
I passed blue girl before the lake and to my surprise and anguish she tucked in behind me. Now I had to ski hard to the finish. I scrabbled through the mashed potato snow with 150 m to go and hit the finish a few seconds in front of blue-exhausted and elated!! We congratulated each
other on a great race.
I couldn’t manage my skies or poles independently and my feet were both killing me, but I was psyched. My Dad and Mom greeted me (both having skied the Korteloppet themselves several years ago) and guided me to the food tent. I was happy to sit down with Terry and the kids and eat a Three Musketeer bar (I choose chocolate and Terry, beer hmmmmm).

The rest of the family finishes with big smiles-my sister with a 30 min PR(how did she do that) and my brother-in-law with a 14 min PR (looking for Wave 1 baby). My niece marvelously finishing 50k after a scare of sickness, which had landed her in the ICU in November. Terry had a solid race as well, continuing his Wave 1 tradition.
We all go to a snowmobile bar in the middle of nowhere for cheap burgers and pitchers of beer later that night and talk for hours about our experiences, already planning for next year. What is so awesome is the sight of 8,000 people doing what you love to do all in one place, from different walks of life and spanning so many age groups. There is an event for everyone!

Ask Terry and I about it and we hope you will join us in America’s Cheese land next year-date Feb 27.


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