Saturday, February 26, 2011

Dang That's Cold

This was the second coldest Birkie in the 38 years that it's been held. Based on how I was feeling with about 10 km to go, I have absolutely no reason to argue with that statistic. We (Sarah, Hugh, Denise, and I) rousted from bed a little after 5:00 am. After some last minute packing/changing and breakfast, we headed north to the start a little after 7:00. It was 10 degrees below zero. No biggie though, after all there were another 8,500 skiers or so gearing up to do the race. We ran the schedule a little tight; and by the time I finished putting on my kick wax and getting my boots on, I had missed my wave 5 start by a couple of minutes. Fortunately they allow for this, and I was able to tag on to the back end of wave 6. Despite the cold, course conditions were excellent. It's really amazing the amount of work (especially the volunteers) that goes into putting on the largest cross country ski race in North America. The grooming is excellent. The aid stations, of which there are 11 along the 54 km course, are staffed by dozens of super enthusiastic and helpful volunteers. It's a tough race to ski, but I really wouldn't be interested in standing around in arctic temperatures all day handing out drinks and bananas to the thousands of skiers that pass through each one. I was sure to thanks as many of the volunteers as I could. Even the volunteers manning the registration tables the day before seem thrilled to be helping out with such an awesome event. So anyway back to the race. I started off really well. I wasn't pushing too hard, and I felt really good. I was definitely cold, but not unbearably so. I was passing people pretty consistently, and managing to eat and drink pretty regularly as well. The course is just awesome. There are three sets of tracks set on the classic course, and so it's pretty easy to get around people. The downhills are also a real hoot. Generally the runout is clearly visible and straight so you can really let loose and carry some serious speed into the next uphill. I was still feeling strong with about 15 km to go, and then the cold finally sunk it's vicious claws into me. My speed dropped to barely moving, and when I limped into the last aid station with 5.7 km to go I had to bust out my emergency shell with the hood. Fortunately I didn't need to stay put for too long. I had 2 cups of warm Heed and 2 slices of orange before setting out for the finish. There were still a couple of long downhills that chilled me to the core, but once I got onto Lake Hayward I was able to get moving enough to generate some body heat. By the time you get off the lake, the thousands of spectators lining Main Street with all there cowbells and such pretty much make you forget about all the pain and the cold (until you cross the finish line that is). Another Birkie and another great experience. To top it all off, I was a little over 20 minutes faster than last year, despite reportedly slower snow conditions. I'll take it.

*I stole the picture, it is not me. by Richard Hoeg

From the 2011 American Birkebeiner Race Guide:
The numbers..what it takes to host the Birkie!
2,000 volunteers, 20,000 spectators, 11 food and medical stops, 2,000 oranges, 5,000 bananas, 5,000 cups of hot chocolate, 600 gallons of soup, 5,000 gallons of water, 1,500 gallons of sports drink, 98,000 cups, 16,000 cookies, 5,000 doughnut holes, and 165 portable toilets. Plus all the skiers and their support staff. Thanks Sarah.

1 comment:

Matty said...

nice work Pete, sound like it was fun. Impressive job considering how bad your training grounds have been lately.