Well, it's getting down to crunch time for the 2015 race season. The Birkie is looming and for those of us crazy amateurs who circle that date on the calendar, the opportunities for race preparation are dwindling. In much of the midwest, snow is a scarcity. The poor folks in Mora had to resort to tilling up the lake ice to create a track (they did a fantastic job from what I heard). There was some doubt as to what would be the condition of the Birkie trail, but those who raced yesterday have no complaints.
A week ago at Badger State Games I knew a cold was coming on. That cold dogged me through the week, hitting a low point on Wednesday. Thursday morning saw a little improvement, but no matter how much NyQuil I drank, progress was slow. Still, the forecast for the Pre-Birkie was a low in the teens and a high in the 30s! Those are the kind of days you DREAM about as a cross-country skier. Heck, I don't know about you, but when I'm doing a 42km race when it's -10, the only thing that keeps me going is thinking, "yeah...this is miserable...but it will make the 25 degree races so much more fun!" Having suffered through the sub zero 2015 Sisu marathon...I couldn't now miss the good weather race!
Sure, doctors and rational people will tell you that you shouldn't go do 42km races when you're sick. However, you spend your whole year training -- dodging colds is just part of the equation. Also, it occurred to me that when saber tooth tigers used to hunt primitive man on the primordial plain, it's not like primitive man could say, "don't chase me today...I have a cold." Therefore the human body is capable of performing athletic feats even when semi-sick (the guys who couldn't run got eaten, so chances are we don't have them as ancestors). So I decided to race.
We had a huge contingent of Cyclova skiers milling about on Lake Hayward in the jittery moments before the race. Mike Colaizy of Wild River Fitness got a guy to snap the above photo. Soon after we were bunched up and shivering as we awaited the starting gun.
If you've never skied the Pre-Birkie, the start is always interesting. Just a little beyond the staging area, the course takes a mild right which always results in a bottleneck somehow. I try to line up towards the middle of the pack, and just a few strokes into the race we were already snowplowing and avoiding the first pile-up. From there the racers stretch across the lake, but the conditions were so fast that there wasn't a lot of room for separation. As you come off the lake, there's another bottleneck, and then things start to widen out as you hit those hills.
Boy, the track was hard and fast! I was trying to ski within myself not sure what effect my cold was going to have on me. However, I felt pretty good all things considered. Mentally, having a cold is tough because it's just another form of discomfort that you have to push through, but physically, once the motor gets revved up, it doesn't seem to affect you a lot.
There are really no bare spots along the Birkie trail at this point. A couple of the snowmobile crossings are a little churned up and dirty, but there is a solid base. Sure, it could use four or five inches between now and the Birkie, but right now, I think the race is good to go.
The Pre-Birkie is nothing but climb, climb, climb. I don't think I've ever finished this race in under 3 hours, and this year I came in at 2:47, which I was psyched about. With the warm weather, my wife brought the girls along to cheer me into the finish, then we all went out for pizza at Coops--spontaneous party! In fact, there was so much excitement that my two little ones need an extra long nap today which has given me the time to write this.
Great, great weekend! The peak is only a couple weeks away! Oh, by the way, I'll be doing a "Birkie Tips and Tricks" presentation this Thursday, February 12th at 6PM at CyclovaXC. We'll be giving away an entry to the Gandy Dancer Trail Marathon. Hope to see you there! Until then...Ski On!