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A Tale of Five Birkies

My first Birkie at age 19
I talk a lot of people into doing the Birkie, and I even wrote "Beyond Birkie Fever" about what a tremendous and life-changing event the race is. But it wasn't until the other day when I was looking through some old Birkie pictures that I realized what a transformation this race can provoke in a person.

I was putting together a presentation about what people can expect at the Birkie, and I decided to include a couple of my old race photos because one of our team guys felt like he might look "out of place." I figured the above photo would quell any of his concerns since most people don't do the Birkie in Khaki pants, a wool shirt, and a stocking cap they bought at Auto-Stop five minutes before the race started.

My first Birkie took me nearly 6 hours, and I was so exhausted by the end, I could hardly walk to my car. But that was it, I was hooked, and I was back again the next year.
When I first started skiing, I used to hate the "fast skiers in their tights," mainly because they flew by me like I was standing still. For that reason, it took me a couple years before I was able to ski without billowy, ridiculous pants. The first year was a pair of khakis, the second year was a pair of black, plastic pants I bought for about $10 at Target or something. They were an improvement in that they didn't become soaking wet, but I still had a long way to go.

Oh, I also did the race wearing a Fyodor Dostoevsky T-shirt. It was just a cotton T-shirt (I wore a thermal underneath I think), I don't know how I managed to stay warm in that thing, the wind went right through it and it held water like a sponge.

The poles I was using were around 160 cm, which I found was just a little too short for me. The way you can tell this is that you scratch up your skis behind your boots because you're always digging in with the sharp tips.

I finished my second Birkie in under 5 hours, an hour improvement, and was bumped up to the 4th wave.

I finally broke down and did the race wearing tights, and let me tell you it's a lot more comfortable when you do that. Lately, I find the biggest key to doing any kind of race is to not overheat, which is good because it means I'm getting to a level of fitness where overheating is even possible.

For this race, I bought a new pair of poles. They were 165 cm, but I would eventually cut them down to 162.5, which is the length I've used ever since. I can see from the photo, that I did this Birkie before I cut them down. Live and learn.

I finished this Birkie in just under 4 hours, continuing my streak of taking an hour off my time every year.
Here was my first Birkie wearing a ski suit. It may not look like much, but this picture is a large reason why you will see so many people out there skiing the Birkie in CyclovaXC green suits this year. I had an extensive ski season in 1996-1997, staring with the Kangaroo Hoppet in Australia, and continuing with the Marcialonga and Konig Ludwig Lauf. My friends who spectated at these races said they could never see me because of my dark suit...well, I decided I'd design my own suit that would stand out from the rest of the pack (Frank and I feel we've perfected the look)!

In 96/97 I just got into the habit of doing a 50KM ski race every year, and it paid off. I finished in under 3 hours at the Birkie and earned a birth in the 1st wave.

You can tell in this photo that it was a cold day. I'm wearing lobster mitts and a neck scarf.  
Here's the first Birkie we did with the Riverbrook team, the shortened Birkie. Man, it was a fast day! I got to "OO" in 1:02. It was fun sprinting off the start line of the 1st wave. This was the only Birkie where I found myself nearly alone within the first two or three K of the race--that, my friends, is a feeling you can't buy.

I kind of laugh when I look at these pictures because I see a guy in 1998 who had come a long way from the fellow in 1994 (although Dallas thought I looked like I was more chilled out back then). 

This is the kind of transformation that the Birkie creates. We live in a day and age when a lot of people feel "trapped" in their routines and are seeking a way out. I sincerely believe the Birkie is an escape from that.  I'm very much looking forward to this Saturday at Telemark and seeing all the old and new friends who have come together to tackle this great event once again.

This will be Birkie 11 for me, here I am with Sofia picking up my 10 year plaque last year:
Hope to see all of you up there at Telemark!

If you wish to read some more about my Birkie adventures, please check out "Beyond Birkie Fever." Here are two great new reviews that also might inspire you.

Be sure to leave those guys comments on the awesome job they did!  See you Saturday, Go Birkie!

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