Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The 41st American Birkie

Hi Everyone!
Just a quick update about my latest adventure in America!! I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to race in the 41st American Birkebeiner, thanks to my sponsor Out There and the organizing committee!
I have never competed in an official Birkie, and never raced a 50km skate race before. My longest skate race is the New Zealand Loppet, Merino Muster(which this year felt more like 60km because of the conditions). I was headed back to North America anyways so I thought it would be a perfect stop-over!
After a bit of discussion, it was sussed, and I booked my flight home to Canada via. Minneapolis. After a disaster leaving Italy with an expired drivers license forcing me to leave the booked rental car in Merano and jump on the train with 2 duffel bags, a rifle, a 35kg ski bag, backpack and purse, where I was then shuffled around the Milan main station by an illegal worker who helped me get my bags to the bus. 30 euros later I was on the bus to Milan Malpensa airport, where I then had to take a taxi to the hotel. Phew....I'm tired all over again just thinking about it!

The next morning I made it to the airport and checked in...no problems with the rifle (first time ever!) but was charged 400 euros for my bags (damn!). BUT....I made it onto the plane to JFK so life was good! Arriving at 9:30pm into Minneapolis and I was greeted by a smiling-bearded man who could have only been my sponsor, Bjorn, owner of Out There! Yahooo!!! After being intercepted by two lost Russians also on their way to the Birkie, we 4 jumped in for a 2 hour drive to Rice Lake,

Where skiers go to get picked up at the Birkie

Yeah Swix!
Thursday and Friday are a bit of a blur as I was quite tired and jetlagged, but I was conscious enough to take in the kids Barniebirkie and compete in the elite athlete sprints. It was a great way to meet some of the best athletes and have some fun. They were very short sprints, and I was feeling it pretty rough, but it got the body moving in prep for the big day!!!
4:30am Race day and I was already awake due to jetlag- Perfect! After a quick Oatmeal breaky, we jumped in the car and drove to Telemark, where the race starts. I was in the Elite womens category, meaning I was in the very first start group at 8am. Pulling into the parking lot at 7:53am and frantically putting my ski boots on was the best warmup possible as it was -20 and very windy. I ran to the start, jiggled my body around to warm it up, and then got on the front line of the heat with my freshly waxed (by Out There!) Fischer skis- not to mention my new white and gold bindings- ooooh lala! The gun went off, the banners were raised, and we were out into the horribly cold head wind. Who do you think found herself in the very front leading the group? Yep, this girl. New Zealand leading the field....for about 1km :)
The driveway out from the house
The course was just gorgeous. 2 nights before there had been a massive snowstorm with 18 inches of new snow which not only collapsed and ruined two huge warmup tents, but also made the conditions very slow. There we were, us tiny spandex-clad ladies speeding through the trees of Wisconsin, working together to be faster by switching leaders periodically. One lady and I were working very well together until at the 25km feed station she got it caught under a volunteers foot and broke her pole- shoot!
After getting one gel and a couple sips of water at 25km, myself and another competitor teamed up to work together to catch some more women. It was amazing- we attacked the hills, pushed up and over the tops, and at this speed, we passed 10 or so girls putting us in 10th and 11th position. It was an amazing feeling. Coming into the 39th km feed station, I tried to grab some gels from the volunteers, but missed both of them, as well as the water. The girl I was skiing with was already heading out, so I though "10 more km, I can do it". 30 seconds later I hit the wall so hard that I cannot even explain the pain I was in trying to just stay with this girl.

Imagine this but 10 thousand more.
Slowly but surely she made time on me...I was losing her. My legs did not even feel apart of my body. I remember coming to one hill, putting my head down, and just staring at my leg, willing them to keep going one in front of the other. I was in autopilot, just trying to suffer through and finish. This is when the first 2 girls passed me. As they passed, I tried my hardest to jump in behind them, but there was no chance- I lasted 30 meters, and they were off. At 46km I got a drink of some Enervit sport drink, which felt like heaven coursing through my body, but it was too late. I was done. 
At the 47km another female elite athlete passed me. I again tried to hold on, but I was like a drowning duck- I knew what I had to do, I just could not do it. Then there was the 2km long lake. Oh dear me...Those jagermeister shots at the start of the lake were very tempting! I put my head down and battled through the ice-cold wind and slow snow. It was probably the hardest moment of my racing career- After no food except for one gel at 25km and 2 sips of water, I was completed depleted of any sort of energy. The finish line could not have come soon enough, and crossing that line in 3 hours and 3 minutes, in 17th position in the womens category (5th in my age category), I was so full of mixed emotions. I had had the best 40km race of my life, and the worst 10km race of my life- but I did it! That is the thing- I did the 50km American Birkie in a respectably time and placing, and in all honesty, I am thrilled! (I was also randomly selected for doping control, so that was fun...;)
Post Birkie bratwurst and beer!
After a luke warm shower and a hot soup, I stayed and cheered on the finishers. 10 500 racers! CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT NUMBER= TEN THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED! It was incredible. My sponsor (Bjorn and Kris) both raced the classic 54km birkie, making an amazing atmosphere at the finish line of tired, ecstatic racers. I cannot thank them enough for their hospitality and kindness, their support and love- They are not just a sponsor, but a friend, and now my Birkie family.
The next day I packed up and headed to the airport to catch my flight to Calgary. Flying on standby, I was not able to get on the flight as they were both full, dang. But thanks to the birkie, a new friend (Justin) and his wife lived 15 minutes from the airport- LIFE SAVERS! People are amazing. I stayed at theirs that night, where he told me all about a charity mountain bike race he is organizing for ALS disease. Very cool people. Check out the ride at www.alsbiketrekmn.com.

 I was able to get on the flight Monday morning, and arrived back in Canmore after 10 months away. That was a long trip, a little too long, and I am so happy to be back in a place I know, with my family.
I hope this finds everyone happy and healthy! Ill try to find some photos to send through!!
xxx Much Love,



  1. I thought you prefaced this with brief!!

  2. Finally sat down and read the blog, better late than never. A bit longer than you let on but great reading.


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