Well, that was the closest to a DNF I’ve ever been!
Friday night I headed to the Strathcona Wilderness Centre where my ski club was crashing the night before the big race. For those of you who haven’t been to the wilderness centre, it’s a really neat place. They have great trails and open up the facilities (similar to a hostel) for the birkie weekend It’s a great space to catch up, wax skis and eat good food (they have a large kitchen and eating area — great for potlucks). Long story short, I got EXTREMELY lost on the way :(…and it took me quite some time to get turned in the right direction. By the time I got to the wilderness centre, my wax technician was eager to get prepping my skis (thanks Dad!).
With Saturday morning calling for cool winds (-20 feeling like -30), the race organizers postponed the start by 30 mins…thank goodness, it was c-c-cold out on the lake for the race start. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Canadian Birkebeiner, it’s a 55k race (with shorter options as well) and can be done either light (without a weight) or the “traditional” – carrying a 12lb pack.
It took a while to warm up after waiting out in the open for the start…but once we got into the trees, it wasn’t too bad at all (I was glad that we had opted to put some vaseline on our faces to break the wind though!).
From the get go I didn’t feel great…I’d been fighting a cold on and off for a couple of weeks and my energy was low. I didn’t even have a chance to try and catch my speedy dad or ski pals. Opting for the 12lb “prince” challenge, it was a tough slug for me from the start (and let me just say, I was ready to break up with the prince by the end ;)).
The Canadian Birkie has km markers along the entire course…and on Saturday it seemed to take forever to get to each one, but I decided to just keep poking along to the next aid station where I would somehow convince myself each time to go to the next aid station. I’ve never had that kind of a mindset in a race, it was a real struggle for me. Thankfully, the volunteers were amazing and the trails were in quite good conditions (I was glad to have my kick wax intact for the majority of the distance thanks to Dad’s waxing expertise).
At any rate, I finished…and I couldn’t be happier to see that finish line and take that darn pack off!
Huge congrats to all the folks who participated. Special shout outs to Sean, Darryl, Janice (and the other Foothills folks), Clark, Mark and (of course) Dad on the great skiing by all!
Side note…I headed out for a quick skate ski with Mom and Dad in Drayton Valley at Pembina Nordic before heading back to the big bad city today. Their trails are in fantastic condition right now and they are holding Alberta Cup races there next week…looks like its going to be great conditions for the skiers!