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A Birkie tale...

by Andrew Johnson

Here’s a story from (I think) my second Birkie. I feel I should warn you that this isn't one of those heartwarming stories like those published on theBirkie website. Those stories are great and they have their time and place. This, however, is not the time or the place...

On this particular year I joined the throngs of people who staple packs of energy gel to the bottom edge of their bibs. I'm sure many people reading this have, still do, or will try it at some point in the future. At the time I figured it was a great idea. The packets would be handy when I needed nutrition and I wouldn't have to worry about losing them. The night before the race I carefully stapled four packets to my bib. I even tried the bib on and moved around a bit. No problem. I wisely resisted the temptation to sleep in my bib that night. The next morning as I approached the start line the unthinkable happened. One of the precious packets released from my bib and dropped to the snow. One minute everything was fine and the next there was a golden foil packet staring up at me from the snow and a glaring open space on the bottom edge of my bib.

Knowing I would need it, I quickly reached down and picked up the packet of gooey goodness. Then reality set in. I couldn't carry this thing through the race. I have no stapler. I’m clad from head to toe in spandex with no pockets and I don’t carry a purse. My start time was fast approaching. Options screamed through my head. What should I do? Shove it in the top of my boot? Carry it in my mouth? Put it in my glove? Ask someone else to carry it for me? Scream, "I NEED A STAPLER!!!" at the top of my lungs? I landed on shoving the wayward nutritional supplement into the waistband of my race suit. I have to admit I thought this was pretty clever. It would be kept warm, had no risk of falling out on the trail, and would be easy to access when I needed it.

The starting gate went up and I skied the first 10 or so kilometers of the race thinking about how annoying the swinging energy gel packs on my bib were and how next year I would shove ALL of them safely in my pants. Genius. The swinging and extra weight on my bib became less annoying with each packet I used. At about 40K I decided it was time to use my last packet. The secret, brilliant packet I had tucked safely into my pants. I chose an appropriate moment to retrieve it. (Don’t want to attract too much attention digging in your pants in the middle of the North Woods you know!) As I attempted to pull this packet of life-giving nourishing nectar out of my pants I realized that something was wrong. Seriously wrong. It was stuck. Rock solid industrial strength adhesive type stuck. This thing was not moving. More than slightly confused as to how this happened and very disappointed at not getting the nutrition I wanted and very much needed, I finished the race.

At the finish line I again attempted to remove the offending packet. I succeeded only in attracting the attention and disapproving looks of a few spectators. Realizing that this wasn't the time or place to figure this out I decided to wait until later. Through circumstances truly out of my control (full bathrooms everywhere I looked and a cramped car ride back to where we would stay the night) I was forced to wait until my post-race shower to get to the bottom of this little mystery.

As I attempted to undress (and I do mean attempted) the scale of this little mishap became apparent. I could not remove my race pants or my base layer. They were cemented together and to me. We were one. I felt like some sort of genetically engineered super-freak who had spandex for skin. I was forced to climb into the shower almost fully clothed and let warm water release the adhesive I had willingly shoved down my pants.

As the water slowly began to wash away the sticky mess and my stupidity I realized I had placed the little foil packet top side down when I put it in my pants. This would not have been a problem but for the fact that one of my staples had punctured the hermetically sealed envelope allowing the goo to warm and seep out over 50 some kilometers. I had placed the packet in the area between my belly button and my right hip. During the race it had worked it’s way down and quite a bit closer to my belly button. (innie in case you were wondering...I figured I've mentioned it twice now so I may as well go all the way.) The adhesive ran mostly to the inside of my thigh and down well past my knee. This is a family web site so I won’t go into too much detail about the extraction process but suffice it to say un-sticking my clothing from…well, me was tricky and painful in a few…areas.

Needless to say I no longer use the staple-the-goo-to-the-bib-method of energy supplement transportation. The moral of this story? Don’t stick adhesives down your pants and try to ski 50K.

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