Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Birkie Stories Ski Season Wrap

With the ski season winding down, thoughts are turning to mountain biking. It has been a great winter in the Midwest with lots of snow and fantastic skiing. A couple of Birkie stories posted below from team members, Sam Oftedahl and Lars Ellefson.

Steve Gromatka racing in Lotvola Cup.

Steve Wenzel racing in the Lotvola Cup.
Lars Ellefson leading the pack from Twin Lakes. Read Birkie story below.
Tony Schmitz in Lotvola Cup.

Anne Ellefson racing in Lotvola after racing in select races during the season.

Sam Oftedahl finishing strong at Mora Vasaloppet 58km. Birkie Storie here:

Like last year,John Munger graciously let me stay at his cabin just outside of Hayward near OO.Chip Tabor his brother & girlfriend,Piotr Bednarski,Charly(friend of the Mungers) where among the others that stayed for the weekend.
Unlike previous years,the theme for this years Birkie was COLD!.We woke up to -12F & clear skies.The forecast was calling for single digit's above 0 with some cloud cover,but the clouds rolled in later then they expected.
As the morn dawns..well..not quite.the morn ritual went like this,& since I shared the kids room with Piotr I got to see how a "pro" does it:Wake up at 5:30..get suited up..bib on(don't forget to put the chip on)..go for a 10min wake up jog...try to shovel down some food...grab your bag,make sure you have everything & out the door..all by 6:00.
On the way to the parking/busing lot you are found to be among a convoy of cars heading to the same 6:00am?!.So we park & head over to stand in line for a bus..all the while hoping we get one one soon because I can't feel my fingers!.On the bus you hope you haven't forgotten anything because there is no turning back now.The ride is only 15-20min so it's just enough time to get feeling back in my hands for the next round of freezing them.We get off & start the long hike over to the start.As we arrive we are amazed to see it is almost deserted!.There should be throngs of skiers running frantically around,but not this year.I think the cold was keeping everyone inside till the very last minute.
Piotr was in the 1st classic wave so he had no sitting around.He was quick to get on his ski's to make sure the kick was good.I offered to drop off his bag for him so he could have as much time as possible to stay warm & calm.
So he went off..I quick threw his bag in the drop off & got ready.It was really cold so there was no standing around,which was something everyone else was doing.Skiers running,jumping,shaking,flailing arms doing whatever they could to stay warm.
I decided to try the ski's so I went out on the practice donut.I only did 1 loop as my ski's felt really good & then headed to the warming tent to stay warm.My toes got cold so I decided to out toe warmers in.Thank God I had some.
10min to start...I quick took my warm ups off threw them in my bag & dropped it off.In the starting chute everyone was shivering from the combination of cold & race jitters.I tried to stay as calm as possible so I didn't waste precious energy.
The gun goes off....I focus on being smooth & fast & try to stay in a draft.It's flat for 2k or so,so you don't want to be going hard.The next section is the "power line".Namely because it's a really wide,straight clearing for a power line.There are some good size hills here so you don't want to be going redline.It's real easy because you still have some adrenaline going through ya.I'm telling myself to stay calm & smooth because there is still 45k or so of tough trail to cover.As we turn onto the birkie I find a group & settle in making sure I'm gliding as much as possible & staying smooth & relaxed.It's like this for most of the race.There is some changes in pace & work on the front but nothing to write about.I'm taking as much as I can at the feeds as to prevent cramping which is almost inevitable in the last 10k.
The group I'm with is about 6 strong & we are working together nicely.That is until the last 15k,where I feel everyone is starting to get antsy.A couple guys try to go off but are reeled back in.Because of fatigue starting to set in the attacks are futile.The pace is still high,or seems that way because I'm getting tired.
10k rolls around & I'm really starting to feel it.I'm third in line & go to look back & no one is there!.The two I were with where still going good so I really focused on trying to stay with them & because the lake was coming up I wanted/needed a draft.
I can barely keep my legs under me across the lake but I'm still with the guy's.There are a lot of people in the hurt locker as we pass them.Trying to put every ounce of energy into going forward & staying upright.Onto mainstreet & the crowd is cheering.It's hard not to sprint even if you where in last place because of the noise.I'm across the line & I'm spent!.The first aid workers are checking everyone for frostbite.I could still feel my face so I'm ok.
Another Birkie in the books..but looking forward to writing another chapter next year.
To everyone who helped make this race possible..Thank you!

Story from Lars:

Birkie morning dawned with one thing. COLD cold weather. When we left our small cabin in Solon Springs, WI at 5:30 a.m. Saturday morning our car thermometer read -17, ouch it was gonna be a cold one! (By the way the cabins/hotel there are great little place to stay)

We had a quick and uneventful drive up to Cable, parked, and loaded on a bus that shuttled to Telmark Lodge. It was busy as ever and there wasn't a spot not occupied inside. I can only imagine what this race would have been like without the lodge open, which was very close to happening.

After getting our bibs I went over what to wear which can always be a struggle on such cold days (the constant over heating, then getting chilled on downhills) by the time I was dressed and had gotten my boots on it was time to head towards the start. Man it was cold. I had no warm up and could only jump around to keep the blood moving. I was in the start pen almost 30 minutes before my start. It's just the way the birkie goes. Finally after moving up through each start pen we were at the line! I had cooled off and could not wait to get going.

I had no warm up so I was surprised when we took off and it was super fast! It was my first full birkie so I started in wave 1, it was super crazy with everyone battling for a spot in the elite wave.

I took off pretty conservatively but stayed at the front of the pack. Things stayed that way as we skied over the powerline and into the woods on the birkie trail. I skied off the front of the roughly 10 person pack a few different times but decide to settle in and ski the pace of the pack. Especially not knowing what to expect for my first 50km. We kept moving at a face pace, first catching the elite women and soon the elite men, usually who were not happy to see us.

I got some energy at the first two feed stops and I knew that would be important to survive. Bad news though as I missed the next two feeds due to traffic or dropping cups. dang.

At about 35km I noticed Matt Dugan (michigan tech skier) and I had a small gap from wave 1, and we decided to take turns pulling. This worked for about 5km until all of the sudden I started feel pretty darn weak and I realized I was heading towards a famous birkie bonk!

From about 43km until the finish I was in suffer fest mode. Slogging along looking for any extra aid I could get, I got a cup of heed and felt a small boost but I was still losing ground fast! When I hit Lake Hayward it felt like an eternity across as I stared at the skier in front of me. I finished and I think looked okay on Maine Street. Whew a relief but very good time in my first Birkie.

As soon as I was done I went straight for soup and warm clothes. It was a very cold day, and well I stayed warm skiing I was frozen as soon as I stopped moving.

I learned a lot in my first birkie. It reminded me of what I have learned from long mountain bike races (that you must eat and drink enough and do it early on) I will next year be more prepared and have a bottle and gu with me. Also I should make the Elite wave next year so that will be a different experience.

Capped off the great day finding out my sister Summer was the Womens Korteloppet Champion which is a big accomplishment!!

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