Mid-way in the 2011 Canadian Birkie 55-km x-c ski race, I thought I could have raced in shorts and a t-shirt. The temperature got to +5C and the high pace effort made for a super warm race. I managed to shuffle my headband down around my neck keeping my Adidas eyewear in place. The breeze on my head helped keep me cool and I made sure I kept hydrated.
The start went smoothly with at least 8 tracks set for the first kilometre with plenty of time before merging into 2 tracks by the second kilometre. All the skiers naturally seeded and it was easy to pass when needed.
With a warm spell of weather the last few days, the tracks set the prior days were solid in a good way and not too icy. With a blue klister base binder topped with a Universal klister, a few layers of VR60 worked quite well. It was awesome to see each posted km sign fly by quickly.
Excited for Alf's 1st Birkie!
After the first feedzone 8-km in, I was skiing in a pod of 4... fellow Lake-Louise-to-Banff Loppet racer Sean Huggins-Chan, fellow club skier John Benskin and Gerhard Lotz from Camrose. We pretty much clung together each taking turns at the lead until I crashed on one of the porcupine trail corners. I chased the 3 skiers just 50 metres ahead of me until I caught them at the Islet Lake feedzone 3-km later.
I had my Camelbak of Vega sport drink and shorts pocket full of dates & gummies within easy access on this warm day. It was great to feed when I wanted to. I made a little ground at each feedzone when the others stopped and then they had to chase back to catch me.
By km-34, the latter half of Islet Lake loop seemed to be when most everyone's grip wax decimated. After I had another slip out on the left-hand right-hand turn over the bridge, a few guys fell like bowling pins one after another. Fortunately, we all came out unscathed and scrambled up the next herringbone climb. We now had a pod of 6 with Jason Proche catching on and a blue-suit guy taking the lead with good grip.
I played cautious on the next twisty descents on Sisika, snowplowing down. Ah, my klister base wax was no match for the abrasive surface. Little did I know that I had ripped off a good 9 inches of grip from each ski around the critical foot area. No wonder I could no longer stay in the tracks up the climbs.
The pod then crumbled. Gerhard and blue-suit guy skied away from us. John had no grip and was wondering if he should stop to rewax. With no uphill grip, I herringbone-walked up any steep climb to conserve energy (doh, the climbs are usually where I can make time) and gunned it on the double-pole sections. Sean and John dropped off. Jason clung onto my pace and called me his guardian angel for helping him keep pace.
A few feedzones later, Jason dropped back and I had blue-suit guy in sight. It was fun when the 55-km course merged back onto the 32-km course and to ski fast in the passing lane. Into the last fenceline section, I was passed by Dennis Colburn who was using griptape of all things. If he had shortened his gripzone, he thought he would have had better glide and still awesome grip.
Into the last 5-km, I caught up to blue-suit guy. I wanted to pass him at 4-km to go... when one hamstring almost cramped. I double-poled straight-legged and managed to ease the cramp away. With 2-km to go, I decided to pass cautiously and had a great double-pole to the finish. My fastest birkie time yet 3:23!
grinning after a great day
Every Birkie I've raced has been different. This was was ultra-balmy with surprising solid tracks. The challenge was skiing without grip the last 20-km... and learning to really work the camber of the ski to plunk down for pushoff.
Kelly, superfast Canmore skier, Marg
Super happy to see friends Tanya, Rhonda & Rick as the official race starters
the Birkebeiner Viking
post-Birkie visit to the Art Gallery with Philip, Alf was resting
prehistoric creature made out of white plastic lawnchairs
sunrise before the Birkie start