Birkie Fever I’m Eager as a Beaver, Get me to the start line, I’m ready to GOOOOO!!!
This is one of the top songs from the Birkie album and very apropos for my race this year!
I will paraphrase the early parts of our trip to the land of Cheese and snow (lots of it this year) since the pre-race prep was nearly identical to last year once we landed in the Midwest. We did have a change of arrival venue and sprung for a ride all the way to Minneapolis instead of our usual Milwaukee, WI stop. This allowed us a wonderful night visiting my sister, Marcia, in their newly remodeled home all done by their own hands. We took an extra trip back to the airport to retrieve our youngest son’s backpack, which he left next to the vending. By this point, the multi-striped pack full of legos and cute stuffed animals, was in the hands of the airport Fuzz for inspection. Thankfully, the litter critters were spared being blown up and made it safely back into Kyler’s possession. On to the beginning of carbo and beer loading that night, then up early the next morning for an UP tempo ski with my sister and brother in law, Leif. Boy, I was working the hills that day and wondered if I had trained enough for the Powerline monsters on the Birkie course. I chalked it up to jetlag and the pre-trip stress of dealing with one pesky pine tree pulled down onto our new Honda Odyssey during the BKL festival the Sunday before. The week preceding the Birkie was spent with several hours on the phone trying to track down the responsible party, then figure out our airport transport. But , the car troubles were erased once we got out on that beautiful SNOW right outside my Marcia’s door. Minneapolis is gorgeous in winter. Perfectly groomed trails around every lake and on every bike path-a skier’s paradise.
Onto Middleton,WI that afternoon for time with Terry’s parents where we got to see our niece, Sydney and Terry’s brother, Steve and did some boot skating on the little pond. We also participated in indoor mini golf, a Madison Capitol tour and some skiing on a man- made loop at a small downhill area and many hours of eating! Wednesday we headed up to Hayward, WI to check out a new house for our Birkie family reunion this year. Thursday brought the Barnebirkie for Kyler who wore #5 proudly in the 3K(only b/c I was competitive and got on-line early to register him). He finished with a smile and in about 20th place. Cookies and Hot chocolate were followed by a delicious lunch at the new Brewery in town, The Hungry Minnow, complete with 2 orders of the “best fried cheese curds we have ever had”. Then, we went to the Expo and as is tradition, ran into Tom and Emma Simon also purchasing Birkie souvenirs.
Thursday night brought the arrival of Marcia and Leif and also Lars, our 20 year old nephew. Later, with an extra 90 minutes of driving due to an unsolicited detour to Wausau, arrived the other cousins, Anika and Maureen and little Travis (a 4 month old Australian sheep dog) and Teya (a 10 year old mixed breed). They were loads of fun! Several pre-race games of Apples to Apples and Sequence were played. The competitive nature of the group was coming out!!
Friday dawned and it was snowing!! Beautiful flakes kept coming down en masse. Up to 5 inches by the end of the day, pretty but not so fast! Terry and I had a great ski from Mosquito Brook (see photo taken by a friendly Midwestern skier) with Carson and Lucy up “B” hill. Boy, it seems even smaller than Mount Weston when you haven’t pounded yourself for 40K already. On Friday afternoon, the eating and planning commenced and for Terry, the waxing! Our house this year was a bit far out so we had to be serious about our pre-dawn plans on race day. Finally after several rehashes and deliberations, it was decided that we would leave the house by 5:45 AM in 2 cars and arrive at Como parking field by about 6:45. That should put us in the start zone by 7:30. Carson, Lucy and cousin, Anika would ski the 12k so they would be transported by Grandma and Grandpa Keeney, my parents, to the start zone. The last family member, my Niece’s fiancé Peter, arrived in his tiny rental car, barely making it to the house, getting stuck in the driveway due to all the snow! Happy to see him, the dogs and everyone got reenergized! Strategy discussed. My lofty goal was a top 100 position among the women, a place that I had flirted with for a few years now. To do this, I needed to try a more aggressive start (which I dreaded, I really dislike the sprinting with your skis and poles in hand, the elbowing etc) and also better energy consumption during the race. I made sure I had a GU available for the latter Ks. Bags packed, skis waxed (thank you, Terry), coffee ready for morning brewing, post-race chocolate packed and try to sleep. 5:00 AM alarm sounds off early, but was preceded by dog woofing anyway. Guzzle coffee, make some oatmeal, get dressed and on our way. Always some pole stress by the Carlson crew, this time Peter had to use some old skate poles without any grips for his 54k classic ski. But he always steps up to the challenge with a smile.
I have to say, this was the most relaxed pre-race I have ever had! We drove and parked and were in the start zone by 7:20. Plenty of time to re-group, photo shoot with Terry, good luck to Terry (skate wave 1) and Leif (Classic wave 2) pee, pee again, drink various items, warm-up, strip down, drink and eat again (I was feeling quite full by now) and calmly enter the start zone. I was questioning my pre-race caffeine Starbucks double-shot, until I saw the trash can full of Mountain Dew, Coke, all kinds of 12 hour energy etc. My calm quickly evaporated as I realized the side entrance to the staging zone opened last! On no, my plan of just behind front line might be nixed! However, I ran to the far side of the area, and ended up in row 3-4, coincidentally right next to nephew, Lars. How fun! We could sprint together 2x to hold our positions until we could don skis and poles. Successfully, we did manage to end up in row 3 or so despite hurdling several dropped water bottles and a few falls by unlucky folks. People just jumped over them, ruthless! This was reminding me of the early 1990s-1000 plus skiers trying to run through mashed potato snow on an uphill to get the coveted start positions-nightmare!
Good starting position, adequate hydration and nutrition-get me to the start line, I’m ready to GO!! Wave 2 is aggressive, but also concerned about equipment. The shouts of “no broken poles", “watch your poles”, “keep your line” echoed nearly as loud as the pre-race countdown! Only funny outfits I saw were Cammo man and some kind of German looking short outfit,?Lederhosen! And we were off!! The early Ks flew by and I felt happy with my position. I hardly slowed at all through Power Line. I looked up and Lars was right beside me, skiing well. I decided to follow him as he could deftly maneuver through other larger skiers (his High School ski racing history had prepared him for this). Feed 1 and I was determined to hydrate well. I nixed carrying my personal bottle in favor of actually taking their feeds. I quickly regretted that decision as I poured ¾ of the cup of Heed onto my chest at the first stop and felt the icy cold penetrate my ski suit. Well, at least it was a warm year, so I wouldn’t have frozen ski suit stuck adhered to my skin. Terry later told me to squeeze the cup carefully and delicately, must practice next year. On to Feed 2 where I actually stopped for a stride and successfully engulfed ½ a cup of Heed. I didn’t see Lars at this point but assumed he was on my tail, as he looked so strong early on. I just continued to push, but at some point questioned my sanity and decision-making on being aggressive. I was really breathing hard and a heart rate monitor would have been begging me to stop. I did recall some recovery Ks after the highest point, but where was the highest point? I always forget-soon I hope. Then I saw the sign around 12k and breathed a sigh of relief. Less then ¼ of the race over and I was feeling a bit wiped. Hmmm….and I was doing the per K math and we weren’t speeding up yet. Looked like it could be a long day!
I kept my eye on red suit man and also floral print tight girl. She was the only skier who spoke a word the whole day I was on the trail. Mentioned something about almost dying on a hill, then she took off!! Everyone seemed to be working extra hard this year and breathing heavy, no chit chat! I must say this mashed potatoey soft snow suits my V1 style well. I kept hydrating and taking 2 HEED feeds when I could. After 00, I was feeling revived and steady. Then suddenly I was feeling a bit logey and spacey. Keep pushing…but I knew I should save something for the 39K hill and also “B” hill right after. Strategy-take a GU at the 38K Mosquito Brook feed zone. I have to admit the only time I have ever had a GU was in a bonkfest ½ marathon I did years and years ago. Didn’t work out well. I was relying on the Feed Zone GU as during my pre-race prep I realized I had no way of attaching my packet to my bib. Didn’t seem to work anyway as I saw several full packs on the trail. The only problem was, the GU feed was at the end of the zone and I hadn’t grabbed any H20. I pressed on, hoping to see a spectator with little cups like in a running race. Well, at 39k there was a big crowd, cheering wildly and they had cups! In my dazed state, I meandered to the right side of the trail, ready to beg for drops of liquid. It was then that some sixth sense overcame me and I looked carefully at the cups which read SHOTS on them, and it was obvious the group had imbibed in a few already (it was after 10:30 AM by now and it is Wisconsin!) That would have been interesting-shots of vodka as a GU chaser!
I tried to wet my whistle with saliva or something and just not think about it. Hammered up B hill (or I thought I did) but then I heard a women’s voice behind me. Surely I was not being caught, I edged over to the right a bit and a Classic Wave 1 woman skier was striding past me on B hill!! I really wanted to encourage her, but I couldn’t even make a sound. I did find her in the tent after to tell her how amazing she skied. At the top there was someone dressed as a leprechaun this year cheering us on, as opposed to the usual “Bs”. The other folks must have been deemed “inappropriate and disallowed”-pity since they were much more exciting that the little green person. Up and over B hill and survive on dry mouth until the final feed. Terry had mentioned something about super special pre-feed Solomon bottles of “power something”. I guess I was early enough this year to snag one and gulped part of it down-sweet awesome drink!! I was ready for the final 5k plus. I kept telling myself 2 more hills then straight down and then the flat (but endless) lake. I could still see floral pant girl, but she was very steady. I caught 2 fading women who looked a bit cooked. Lined up for the lake ski and just followed red suit and a 3rd waver all the way in. Look up now and then. The longest 2K you can imagine. Decided to pass on the Jagermeister shot at 1.5K to go! Certainly not as spunky as in years past, but my early pace was making my quads burn. Kept focusing on my goal, every second counts and you never know who could come up behind you from the later waves. I finished as strong as possible in the very mashed up snow coming down Main street. I found floral gal and congratulated her and she told me her name was also Sue! I didn’t have the brain cells left to ask her where she got those cool flower print tights, though, darn! Staggered and limped to my bag and there was Terry, all changed and souping it up. He shared with me that his quads had burned up with about 5k to go. Not his strongest day due to the soft conditions. I continued to limp into the change tent(my left foot appeared to have lost function) and found a spare chair. Occasional spasms as I changed my clothes, first in the abdominal muscles, then the foot, then the quads. I managed to stand up without help but caught a few concerned looks as I gimped out to the crowd. Post-race chocolate with Terry and we were able to see my niece, Maureen, and Leif (her father) finish within 30 seconds of one another, despite different techniques and wave starts, pretty cool. Leif looked solid in his first Classic 54K race and Mo kept up the V2 tempo all the way to the finish. Marcia finished strongly a few minutes later. Computer glitch, so I didn’t know my place for several hours, so I had to wait patiently. Carson, Lucy and Anika along with G and G Keeney and Kyler arrived from Cable, all smiles and happiness after their 12K Prince Haakon event. It was so great to see them! The only bad news was that Lars had to drop at 00 after puking somewhere along the early hills. I felt very badly for him. I had shared a shotblock and one sip of double shot pre-race but maybe his stomach didn’t like that. Good news was that he met Jamie Doucett at 00. Not so good news for Jamie since it meant he was hanging out at Double 0 also not feeling well. They realized quickly that they knew someone in common, the McNatts! Guess they bonded with the other medical emergency folks. We ran into Lisa Doucett (strong Korte finish) and Jamie in the finish area and they helped us with a family photo shoot (see pictures attached).
Got the slip with my place and I looked at it, cautious and disbelieving-86th women!!! I had surpassed my goal. I celebrated quietly b/c it is possible to drop a few places when the later waves come in. Not this year though! Next year, hmmmm, in the top 75 women? Train harder, technique work, more aggressive start, better feeds and practice the HEED and GU consumption! Possible, maybe?
Got our car in Cable and headed to the house for celebration of another Birkie family Reunion. We heard the other race finish stories. Peter, Mo’s fiancé, hammered in with his brand new boots and a few blisters for a 5:40 Classic ski. Everyone relived the slow snow with hilarious stories of the day. We are already planning for 2014. I just don’t want to wait 359 days from now!! Thank you to our family for making it possible. Thanks to the Birkie, the greatest “Show on Snow”. Sign up is on tax day this year!!! Don’t miss it!
Was very pleased with my first Birke skiing out of wave 2. I started on the front row as planned and felt comfortable for most of the race. I was happy with a 3:04 considering the very soft conditions for most of the race. I really enjoyed the entire experience and will definitely be going back next year!- Brett Rutledge
Finished my 35th birkie Saturday. First in my age group (the ranks are real thin in my category) with a time of 4h 24 minutes. new snow made for a lot of high stepping going up the hills. Each year i forget the incredible amount of hills in the race as well as my promises to myself to spend more time on my bike during the off season. For the last two birkies i had boulder nordic wax my skis with good results; i was as fast as anyone on the downhills. having them do the servicing really eases the nerves the night before. Looking forward to a couple more good ski weeks at waterville before mud season.
I also had some offspring ski last week. grandson lars (8) skied in the junior birkie on friday; and grandson torsten (13) skied the junior birkie and his first korteloppet with a time of 1hr 24. Remiss in not mentioning that my daughter in law Maree also raced in the birkie. Forgot, probably because she beat me by 6 minutes. I'll
get her next year.
My son Corey got dropped from the elite wave with a tough race last year and started in the first wave last week. he finished with a 2:46, still presentable. the best part of him racing is that for the last several years, after his finish, he skis back with a waterbottle of classic coke (stirred, not shaken) and meets me just after bitch hill. it's the best lift you can imagine. the coca cola and the image of crowding in The Angler for brats and beer are the juice that gets me to the finish.
Alex's story and photos are on her blog at: http://alexjospe.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-birkie.html