Ok, I’ve had a lot of people ask me to put this up, so I’m sorry if you are someone who doesn’t want to listen to me ramble and wants to see pictures of Grant instead. I’ll put up some Birkie pics tomorrow.
FYI… CXC will release a video of the Birkie on their website; check out www.cxcskiing.org to purchase it in about 2 weeks. Video was taken from a snowmobile of the lead pack. Race commentary was done by two great guys that know the sport very well, Dennis Kruse and Chad Salmela.
Saturday morning started out early for me. Grant woke up screaming at about 3:30. It was a little early for me so I snuck into another bedroom at Chuck and Lianne’s cabin. I was woken up by my wife around 5:30 and I stumbled into the kitchen. Breakfast was a fried egg and instant oatmeal. I was so full from carb loading over the last few days that I didn’t feel very hungry.
Marybeth dropped me off at Cresthill Resort (CXC athlete housing in Hayward) around 6:30 and I drove with my team to the start area. I was getting the feeling that the day was going to be a great one because I felt awake and couldn’t sit still in the van… like I was going to explode with energy.
Once we arrived at the start, Andre Watt and I tested skis. We were very worried because our skis felt a little slow (normal speed) but Brian Gregg reminded us that it had just snowed an inch of grabby snow and nothing was going to feel super fast. I wasn’t convinced but off the start line I could tell our skis were good compared to others and they only got better as the race went on (thank you Fish and Brandon).
At the 11k mark Brain Gregg and I took turns pulling up to the high point. The goal was to try and break up the group of 30+ skiers. I think it worked a little but our legs started to hurt so we stopped beating our heads against the wall and dropped back into the pack.
Another attempt to break up the field came as we made our way to OO (about 1/2way mark). Again, Gregg and I took turns pulling at the front and we soon found ourselves with a gap. Half a minute later our CXC teammates Brian Cook and Andre Watt bridged to us without bringing up anyone else. Sweet, I was hoping to break away from the field with only my CXC teammates… how awesome. But it didn’t last; we were caught by the top of the OO hill and decided to save it for later. After all, we were only 22k into a 50k.
For the next 11k I was jumpy as hell. Last year I had felt good during this portion of the race but broke a ski pole at 30k and skied without one for 7ish kilometers; enough to make me very tired. This was in the back of my mind so I did some skiing at or near to front to try and avoid any tangles.
Around 32k I asked a couple fellow racers how it was going and I received the blank stare back (are you talking to me?). I knew some in the group were running low and decided to make a pull at the 33k mark. I skied hard for a minute and looked back and I could not believe how far they had let me get. I expected at least someone to respond but I think no one wanted to chase at that point and the CXC boys were not going to chase their own teammate (thank you guys!). Also, I think the field thought I was possibly prone to bonking, but by that time in the race I had already downed 5 gels and close to 60 oz of sports drink
For the next 17k I fully expected to get caught by at least a few if not more racers. I yo-yoed back and forth with the lead chase group. The always fast Canadian, Dan Roycroft, came very close to getting me on a few of the climbs but my skis were very good and I worked the flats and downhills very hard to put time into him.
I didn’t feel confident that I was going to win until half way across the very long Lake Hayward. At that time I started to get very excited at the thought of being able to carry my son across the finish line. It was fun to cross the line first but it was more fun watching my teammates finish great as well. I was so pumped to see that Cook had finished right behind me. I was a little nervous because I wanted Gregg and Watt to have great races as well and they did not disappoint; 4th and 6th respectively. Even more amazing was watching Gus out-sprint Bjorn.
Post Birkie has left me excited and energized about the sport I love… and a little tired.
Today I was promptly removed from cloud 9 and brought back to the real world as I had 7 interviews at a medical device company in the Twin Cities; brings back the question of how to balance ski racing and paying the bills. I am hoping to find a flexible engineering position as great as my last job, at least one of my interviewers had heard of the Birkie and was psyched to meet me.