Holy cow! I don't know about you guys, but I thought that was a tough Birkie. As much as a skiing fanatic as I am, I really can't say that I get all excited about skiing when the Mercury is at -4 at the start. Usually that's not a big issue in late February since the sunlight is so much more potent than, say...early January. But when it's an overcast day, nothing can save you.
The only reason I managed to survive was due to the toe warmers that I'd bought at Farm and Fleet (seriously, we need Farm and Fleet to sponsor us...that's the best store in the universe). I brought three and gave one pair to my mom and used another on my toes. Just before I went outside, I figured I might as well use the last set of toe warmers, so I ripped them open and stuck them on my thighs between my tights and long underwear. My thinking was that sometimes your thighs get really cold on a below zero day, and I wanted something to cut out the wind. However, the result was absolutely amazing. I was actually toasty warm standing at the starting area and I think I might be investing in about a thousand dollars worth of toe warmers to carry around with me next year. When you come right down to it, can you honestly say that you ever had a bad race because your feet got too warm? I don't think so.
Although my feet were fine, something definitely needed to be done about my hands. Life's been gobbling away at my training time and I wasn't able to get the marathon distances in that I'd wanted to this year. Doing the Pre-Birkie really would have helped...but oh well. Anyway, the result was that I was skiing pretty well until kilometer 35 and then it became a death march. It got to the point where I was going so slow that I couldn't pump the heat through my body well enough to keep my hands warm. I was really suffering by the time I hit the lake, but the promise of being done (plus the flatness of the lake) allowed me to pick it up for the final few K and, miraculously, my hands were thawed back out and comfortable by the finish line. Still, if this had been a 58 kilometer event, I would have been in trouble.
Honestly though, you can't complain. The course was in tremendous shape which is pretty remarkable considering the number of people that were beating it to a pulp. The power lines felt like concrete even though I was in the 5th wave, and it wasn't until the snow started to fall that things began to slow down a bit. The Birkie truly is a world-class course and the groomers deserve some major props.
The other important part is finding your bags at the finish line, and that too was well organized and easy to navigate.
My only complaint is that there were no Bitches on Bitch hill this year, but maybe the cold had something to do with that. Oh, and one last rave review...THANK YOU for having the bib pick-up in Hayward rather than Telemark! If that hadn't been the case, I don't know if I would have been able to get home and wax my skis!
All and all, you were pretty lucky to survive this Birkie. I doubt too many people had personal records (but there are always a few). I froze my face a little bit and didn't even realize it until Sunday morning...I look like I got into a fight over the weekend.
Another Birkie's in the books, it was number 9 for me, which is a humble total next to some of you, but I hear I get a plaque next year! I'm looking forward to another year of training, we're all at square one again!