Thursday, April 19, 2012

The 2012 Birkebeiner

Taking a queue from Helen I've decided to spend some quality time reflecting on my latest race for a couple of months before writing up a report.  What better way to forget the low points and remember the highs.

This year's Birkie was prefixed by a really long and hard running season, and by a very dry winter.  The result of this was that my skiing preparation (I classic) was a total of about four hours on the nordic trak and nothing else.  Birkie morning was, in fact, the first time I had skis on this year.  Normally this should strike fear and dread into someone facing 54k with no practice time.  Fortunately, I don't 'race' the Birkie and this was my seventh time doing it.  I ski it hard, sure, but I never put in huge amounts of training, since this is my off season and I just don't want to spend the time.  Also, no surprises since I'd done it so many times.  Really, the only thing causing me some anxiety was the downhills.  Last year I think I hit 30mph on one, but controlling that the first time out is a bit dodgy.

Overall it was a really nice day for skiing.  I had stayed up at the Bickford lodge with the same crew as last year.  Once again Sue and I drove up together, only having forgotten what time we left last year, we guessed wrong and left late.  I ended up having to run to the starting line.  I didn't even get a chance to wish Sue luck, but at least I had warmed up from all the rushing.  I started in the back of the pack, which was just fine, and as I waited the last few minutes I chatted it up with a guy who had about the same level of training as me.  Then we were off!

The temperature was great, in the low teens, a full 20 degrees warmer than last year.  The snow was great, and I was on a fully supported 54k romp in the woods.  Way too awesome.  I basically made sure I was never out of breath and didn't much look at the watch, just enjoying my time.  At the powerlines was my first test of downhilling, and it all worked out great, no crashes, and I was able to bomb them just fine.  After the first couple of hills I had all my confidence back, just like riding a bike, I guess.

The rest of the day was a cruiser, I felt pretty good and just enjoyed the weather.  Somewhere around 40k a guy I was skiing next to said something like "I can't believe you're smiling" to which I could only respond that I was having a great time.  At 50k my lack of training spoke up and my groin got really sore really fast.  At least it was near the end, with less than 20 minutes to go, but it was all flat which meant kicking the entire way.  Well, I'm no stranger to pain and discomfort so, like a good soldier, I pushed on.  Main street was the usual craziness and I once again made it to the finish line in Hayward.  This was the the first year I didn't fall the entire race.

Once again, the Birkie proved to be a great, fun event.  The best parth hanging out with friends at the finish, eating bar food and hoisting a few.  And this is one time where there is plenty of cowbell.