More race reports

Our race report section is rapidly growing. We have five race reports so far (and want to add more) from a variety of skiers, with some great stories. There’s Shawn, the first ever blind woman to ski the Birkie, and her guide, veteran Birkie Trail skier Jesse. Then there’s Nick, who dropped 60 pounds and quit smoking in pursuit of a Main Street finish. And Rob, a triathlete who skied most of his first Birkie with a full-on snapped ski. Oh, and if you really want, you can read my race report as well.

The Great Bear Chase [sponsored]

Editor’s note: while this post is being written about a sponsor, it is neither at their behest, and all of the copy is written by BirkieGuide contributors (i.e., me).

When the Great Bear Chase emailed to sponsor (see their ad over there on the right?), I responded that we’d be glad to have them do so, and that we really enjoyed the race. I’ve skied the Bear Chase twice, and both have been memorable, for different reasons. The GBC is held in the very snow Keweenaw in the UP of Michigan. It’s a long drive from the Twin Cities, but the snow is generally great, it’s a low-key vibe and most importantly there is a pasty feed at the finish. That’s right, the feed at the race is pasties. This can not be understated, as Tony’s Pasties are fantastic.

In any case, the race in 2003 was memorable as it is the only race I’ve ever dropped out of. The Bear Chase had been canceled the year before because of dozens of trees knocked across the course by strong winds. The race in ’03 dawned as windy as the year before, but with a frozen lake and no icing, the winds blew straight out of Manitoba. Temperatures at race time were -6, winds were gusting past 40 mph, and the wind chill during the race never broke -30.

I had on all my clothing, but was still underdressed. Stories abound of skiers stuffing hats in their pants and similar tactics. A friend had frostbite which didn’t heal for weeks. Gels handed out by the race volunteers were frozen. At 32k, as I climbed a hill and didn’t warm up on scratchy, blown snow, I stopped at a feed. I never stop at feeds. And when the volunteer put a wool coat over my shoulders I declared, “I’m done. Put me in a car.”

He told me I’d make the right choice. He said he wished he had a mirror to show skiers how bad their frostbite was and get them off the course. I learned an important lesson that day: if the race organizers are encouraging you to ski a shorter race and waiving change fees, there’s a reason. It was my only chance to ski a 50k (college races were held during the Birkie weekend and other marathons) and I’d never skied that distance, and felt that—as a even scrawnier, stubborn 18-year-old—I had something to prove. I proved that when faced with adversity and frostbite, I can make a somewhat coherent decision.

In 2008, I had a less-than-stellar Birkie. I neglected to hydrate the day before and blew up after the Power Lines, going from 211th place at the 4.5k marker to 382nd at OO before I drank a lot of water and finished in 339th—well out of the Elite Wave (I’d started in the first wave). Two weeks later, I was excited to ski a marathon and prove that the Birkie had been a fluke.

That year the race was skied in mild temperatures with a good track and sun. I had a fine race, skiing with a small chase group and picking off skiers who fell off the lead skiers, and finished with skiers who’d all skied in the Elite Wave two weeks before. And I got to eat pasties.

So, go to the Great Bear Chase. It’s a fine race, there’s 40 inches of snow on the ground up there, and you get a pasty at the end. I mean, that’s reason enough.

2013 Race Report is up

Want to read 4500 words about my race? It’s right here! Links and pictures will be added in coming days.

New this year: race reports from other people. If you want to send me a race report, I’ll post it. Just send it to ari.ofsevit at gmail and I’ll post it in the Race Report area of the site. A couple of guidelines:

  • Write something unique. If you write a couple paragraphs with the gist of “I went to Cable, the snow was soft, I skied to Hayward, I had a beer” it’s not telling us anything new.
  • Tell a story. 10,000 people skied the Birkie. There were 20 wave starts, two techniques, 88k of trails and about 15 bars at the finish. What happened to you?
  • Write at least a few paragraphs. It’s a 50k race and took you at least 2:09 to finish. Tell us about hills, feeds, race tactics, scenery, volunteers, mishaps, adversity overcome. Tell us something funny. Make it long enough that we want to read it.
  • Write it in paragraphs. Meaning—don’t just send a blurb of sentences run together.
I’m looking forward to reading about everyone’s experience!

Race report coming

Two hours on an airplane from MSP to BOS and I have about 4000 words of a verbose race report written. I have to finish it up when I’m home from work (yes, I went straight from the airplane to work) but it’s coming soon! If for some ungodly reason you’re interested.

And then there’s more to come after that. Elevation data. Data data. Data data data!

I am a huge nerd. But I am sitting, right now, in 169th. And despite a valiant effort by Ms. Alex Jospe, I won Massachusetts. (Because we know that Ali is from Poughkeepsie, NY, not MA!)

Quick post race note

Im sure you’re all waiting with baited breath for a full race recap. What? You’re not? You’re asleep? Okay then. Anyhow, keep waiting. I’m writing this on my phone and it’s too late to say much other than that the course was beautiful and slow and soft and I think I have my best result yet in 168th but there were technical glitches and I’ve gone from 177 to 206 to 188 to 168 so far. So we’ll see where it all shakes out. Good night!

Race week trail closings UPDATE

The Birkie hasn’t posted this to their homepage, and buries it several levels down, but here is the latest information for trail closings before the race (current as of 9 a.m. Thursday):

  • 10 a.m.: Classic Course Closed
  • 4 p.m.: Skate Course Closed north of OO
  • 6 p.m.: All Trails Closed

The main caveat here is that there will likely be 2–4 inches of new snow on the trail falling on Friday. So the Birkie will have to set new tracks during the storm for the classic, and will likely be out packing the new storm. So if you do ski before the official closures, watch for grooming machines on the trails. It is always possible that the Birkie will close the trails earlier, although with ample snow (it’s cold—temperatures bottomed out this morning at -15) and new snow falling, there is no particular reason to do so other than to clear skiers off the course to allow them to pack the snow more easily. Snow should start in the morning on Friday and fall lightly during the day (1/3 to 1/2 inches per hour) with temperatures in the low 20s before tapering around midnight. There may be very light snow (1/2 inch) during the race.

The entire course will get a full once-over (or perhaps more-than-once-over) before the race on Saturday morning.

How much will it snow

I’m not going to give away my wax secrets (okay, fine: old snow = Toko, new snow = Swix), but there are two camps right now for how much snow will fall before the Birkie. In one camp is the NAM model. It shows 3-6 inches of snow falling on the Birkie Trail all day Friday and in towards the race. In the other camp is the Canadian model, which shows quite little. The HPC is in the former camp, with a 50% chance of at least 4-6 inches, a 10%-90% range of 2-12 inches. (I’d discount the higher amounts, but still.) The European model also shows colder temperatures—in the 8-12 range—as opposed to higher temperatures advertised by some other models.

How much it snows will have quite an impact for skiers in the race. For starters, flex. If the race were held today, it would be a pretty solid course, with medium-flex skis or harder for the course. Throw four or five or six inches of snow on to the course, an it’s a festival for the soft-skied types. Assuredly the Birkie will send out the machines to smooth and pack, but falling snow won’t turn to hardpack overnight.

My money is on three or four inches of snow. And my wax. Since I don’t have a dozen pairs of skis for any and all conditions.

This is hot

There is a video going around of three Pisten Bullies all together grooming the Birkie Trail. This is basically porn for Nordic Skiers.

As far as the weather, we’ll need more of that. It is looking like the trail should get at good three or four inches of snow on Friday with some light snow lingering through the start of the race. In other words, soft track skis with a finer grind, and cold fluoros.