Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Birkie Recap + Photo Explosion!

(From the Copenhagen Airport!) 

Well, the 2015 Birkie is in the books and it was a success!  I don't know if that constitutes a strong bout of the fever or "beating" the fever but I'll take it!  I'll begin with these three links that had good coverage of the race. The first link is a radio interview I recorded via phone with Alaska Public Radio. It's always fun to get notes from friends saying, "I heard your voice tonight" when I'm so far away! 

Alaska Public Radio: 

Fasterskier's race recap: 

Alaska Dispatch News, Beth Bragg:

Yes, I was able to take the win in the Birkie... it was my feet on the skis but those feet and those skis wouldn't have been there without a LOT of help.  Thus, my thank you shout outs are interwoven into the post and the pictures. 

THANK YOU to the Swee family for providing AWESOME hospitality for 10 days surrounding the race. They provided me with meals, wheels, enthusiasm and even a personal ski track out their front door on the lake!  Plus, they woke up at 4:30am to get me to the race start and Marge made fresh squeezed orange juice EVERY morning. The joke was that my stay was going to make me soft and a wimp for upcoming hard travel! Their lake cabin just outside of Hayward was an amazing place to refresh & rejuvenate. 

 Marge & Ron braving the wind on Lake Hayward pre-Birkie 

While the snow conditions were good, the temperatures were a bit tricky. The one day weather window we got for the race was absolutely amazing. Someone or something was smiling down on all 10,000 + people! The race was the ONLY day of the entire trip where I wore gloves instead of lobster mittens. Most days began well below zero and I had to wait until the "heat" of the day to train at 2pm. Admittedly I totally wimped out one day too and paid $14 to run on a treadmill :) 

THANK YOU to Salomon USA for great ski & drink service!  Josh Korn, Evan Elliot & Bill Pierce waxed my skis. Jenny and Brent Knight helped out with feeds. You guys are awesome. I raced on the new Salomon Carbons and they were great. I've been racing on them in every skate race, all year!  They're like feathers on your feet. 

 Lex, my APU teammate doing the Mo-Bot. Congrats to Lex on a fantastic race, 5th place!  We were both able to take home the "Tony Wise" award for top American. 

 Two nights before the race checking out the "International Bridge" and the snow spread over main street

Great physio help from Jim Mullen - a sport rehab Doc and CXC racer. Thanks for your poking and prodding Jim! While in Hayward I also saw former Olympic skier, John Bauer. 

A glorious pre-race dinner that powered me from Cable to Hayward. The Swees love to cook and it was really fun to try new recipes and share favorite dishes with them! 

Rob, Marge & Hannah squeezed into the back of the car on race morning. 

Lining up at the start line - photo, Epp Paul 

And we're OFF! Leading the charge 

A group of 4 skied together for nearly 40k. We "broke trail" for the 10,000+ skiers as it snowed overnight and snowed hard during the first half of the race. The conditions were NOT fast! 

Hannah helping with her first-ever feed! Thanks Hannah :) 

Looking not-so-stylish..... thanks Skinny Ski for some of these pics! 

Ski for ski, toe for toe at the Double OO sprint. It was a photo finish and I lost.... 

While I didn't win the sprint I was able to be the first down main street! 

Finishing with the snow machine

And got a great hug at the finish line! 

Here is actually a great 26-minute highlight reel of the race..... it shows my move with 2k to go on Lake Hayward

Podium happy! 

Top Girls - four countries represented

With the Swees! Thanks for the sign Hannah! 

A handful of skiers from APU including Becky Manley and Reno Deprey came to race the Birkie! (I think Reno was the oldest finisher at 85?  Just amazing - what an inspiration!)

A big THANK YOU to these movers and shakers! These three and the entire Birkie staff had an amazing ability to get stuff done - not to mention order fantastic weather and ski conditions. I'm really honored to represent the American Birkie and these folks abroad on the FIS Marathon Cup Tour!
(Al Serano, Amy Rowley & Ben Popp) A huge shout out to all the volunteers as well.  The races wouldn't be what it is without you!

Lasting evidence of the last race feed (coke) that I took to the face.... and.... a big THANK YOU to two of my biggest sponsors. My Club, APU Nordic Ski Center & my headgear sponsor, BP Alaska. Without APU as a backbone and BP's financial help I wouldn't be able to chase these races around the world, literally!

Hannah back at the awesome cooking!

There was no rest for the weary on Birkie weekend. After Saturday's race I was up early to lead a Fast and Female event in Hayward.

The girls loved the concept 2 double pole machines!

And the CLIF bars. Thanks CLIF!!! 

Awesome ambassadors: Julia, Sarah, Izzie, me, Ingrid, Brandy & Nicole of Hayward Fitness Fanatics. (Sabra missing from the pic)

Big shout out to Kristy Maki for being an organizing Guru and Amy Rowley (again!) for doing the AV. 

Perhaps the biggest THANK YOU goes out to my husband, Rob. I already posted this picture on Facebook and said that, "He is my rock and he is carrying my rock" meaning that he is my biggest supporter and he lugged this beautiful trophy, (literally a rock) home to Alaska in his backpack! 

On the way to Minneapolis in a tiny rental car with Lex. It was a team driving effort.

After 10 days of frigid conditions my skin is destroyed! 

So, the Birkie was a success. I was proud to stand on the top step of the podium in the only FIS Marathon Cup in North America. I also successfully took back the red leader's bib!  But, the fight is close and I'm racing 50k classic at the Bieg Piastow in Poland this weekend followed by the Engadin Ski Marathon in Switzerland the following weekend!  Stay tuned for more action! 

Last but not least, here's a quick article I wrote before the race that I failed to publish.... 

"I've got a fever!" 
(Written Feb 19)

It's not the sick, immune suppressed fever that you might be thinking. The "Fever" that I'm referring to is actually "Birkie Fever", the affectionate name applied to skiers who are excited (or become obsessed) with the upcoming American Birkebeiner cross country ski race in Hayward, Wisconsin.  Perhaps the best way I can describe it in Alaskan terms is that it's like Mount Marathon hype, but in the winter, spread across skiers covering the entire country. Every February those skiers converge in Northern Wisconsin to reenact the 50 kilometer ski that "saved" the Norwegian Prince. Only, the American Birkie consists of 10,500 racers, start rights that sell out months in advance. The hype and "fever", however is palatable and affects racers and non-racers alike. Weeks leading up to the race are filled with planning, speculation, and anxiety; what will the weather hold, what will the fastest wax be, and who will try to break away from the "peleton" of skiers at bi*** hill to cross the finish line in Downtown Hayward first? 

In addition to the Birkie being the pinnacle of US Marathon racing, the race itself holds a special place in my heart as it was essentially the "breakthrough race" of my career.  In 2009 I signed up for the race on a whim and raced it as a coach. Surprisingly, I found myself sprinting down main street for the win against Rebecca Dussault, a 2-time Olympian. We both lunged hard for the line as the first "toe" across wins the race.  I lunged so hard that I ended up in a heap on the ground. Face in the snow, I heard that I came up an inch (literally!) short and Rebecca had won the 2009 American Birkebeiner. Despite my disappointment, I was elated. It was a huge result at the time and one that gave me confidence to move forward in my career as a professional ski racer.  

I didn't return to the Birkie until 2012, during a quick break from racing the World Cup in Europe. Again, the race ended in a sprint down main street but this time it was my toe that crossed the line first. American Birkebeiner victory one in the books! 

This year I am approaching the Birkie from an entirely different angle.  As a full time Marathon racer I am here because I love the race but I am also here because the race is part of the FIS Marathon Cup, a series of 9 Marathon races spread throughout the World which take place over the entire ski season. So far I have raced FIS marathons in Livigno, Italy, Obertilliach Austria, Cavalesse Italy, and two weekends ago in Les Rousse France.  Last weekend I skipped the Tartu Ski Marathon in Estonia in order to spend two weeks in the US. Unfortunately, my absence meant that I lost the red leaders bib to my nearest competitor, Tatijana Mannima of Estonia. My goal will be to get it back this weekend on home soil! 

After Saturday's Birkie I will lead a Fast and Female event for the local girls here and then Monday, begin a 3-day journey to my next Marathon racing destination, Slarska Poreba, Poland!  Following the "Bieg Piastow" the penultimate race of the series is the Engadin Ski marathon in Switzerland.  Then, the FIS Marathon Cup final will be contested in Khanti-Masiysk (Siberia!) Russia nearly a month later on April 11th! 

Holly :) 

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