2016 Birkie Tour Event Report

That moment when you drop your GoPro and get the best picture of the day
Another great day in the books! Last spring I got the mass email from the Birkie office announcing that you could get a 10% discount by registering for 3 or more events at once. I already do the Birkie and the Birkie trail marathon, so I figured I'd sign up for the Birkie tour as well (it's only $40 for pre -registration).

This is a fun and different kind of event. It's basically everything a race is without being a race. If you're a person new to skiing then the Birkie Tour is a great event for you as it gives you a stress free trial run of all the stuff you have to face on a typical ski race morning. This is a good event for people who are veterans as well since it's a nice way to get a long ski out on the Birkie trail (although we opted to do the 25k loop this year because of the temperatures.

The whole ski racing thing is a blast, but the one thing I don't like is spending too much time away from my 5 and 3 year old daughters. So this weekend, the family and I elected to get a hotel in Hayward for a night. We pulled in to the America's Best Value Inn and proceeded to splash around in the pool until it looked like the kids might be ready to sleep (they weren't). Back in the old days, our club used to travel en masse and we'd take over hotels, and that's really the way to do it. If you can finish the race, head straight to a hot shower and a hot tub...well, it doesn't get much better (have the pizza delivered to the pool area, the hotel staff loves it when you do that).

We woke up at 7 to this:
I didn't feel much consolation by the fact that although it was -18 it "felt like" -17. When I was growing up we didn't have any of this "feels like" nonsense...if the thermometer said -86 it was -86 and we were HAPPY to walk barefoot to 3rd grade through 12 feet of snow uphill both ways!!!

The cold weather afforded us an opportunity to do a trial run for dressing in cold weather, which is important. I mean, you don't skip the Birkie just because it's -18!

When it's cold like this, my trick is to use toe warmers on my toes, but also on my thighs. You put them on your thermal tights, and then pull the ski tights over them. Amazingly, the trick works to heat up your whole body. I also always bring a couple extra adhesive warmers with me in case some other part of my body starts to freeze. It's good to know you have some sort of option for a bit of warmth.

I also experimented with putting strips of duct tape on my thighs to block out the wind. It worked great and the duct tape comes right off after the event. I'll be throwing a roll of duct tape in my gear bag from now on. Dressed and ready, we loaded up the Subaru and we were off:
Cover all your exposed skin with vaseline or dermatone on -18 days or you'll get frostbite
We got our numbers, et cetera, and hit the trail. I could tell in the first half hour or so that it would be kind of ridiculous to attempt to do the whole event. When it's that cold, you get that styrofoam squeak and you can basically walk right up hills. That's OK though...this is an untimed tour so you can do whatever you want. 

I threw my GoPro on my belt and I got a couple cool shots (I had to work them in Lightroom though):


As you can see, they had the trail in rocking great shape. The grooming was immaculate and the tracks were super fast. The only way to make any progress was to jump in the tracks and you could pick up some pretty good speed. Honestly, this event is worth doing just for the grooming, it's very rare that you get the opportunity to ski on a track this good and you can tell they come out in force to prepare the trail for the Birkie Tour.

It was the kind of day that's good for growing ice beards:
We did our loop then made it back to the finish area heated tent to enjoy hot coffee, pulled pork sandwiches, etc. Really fun! If you've got a ski club or a group of friends looking for a super challenging but low-key event, then this is the one! Throw it together with a two night stay at a local hotel and you've got a masterpiece of an epic weekend. Nothing quite gets you out of your own head like skiing. There's just something about reaching a level of physical exhaustion and starvation in -20 degree weather to make you realize the irritations you face during a regular work week are really quite minor. 

Honestly, where besides the Birkie trail do you ever want to be? I'll be doing this event again!


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