XC Skiing race 3:24:27  50.0 km (4:05 / km)
My first Birkie was a great one. Thanks to everyone for the advice and well wishes that helped make it a great weekend.
As I've heard from others, skiing the first one will likely be my best one -- skiing from the back wave surrounded by relaxed first timers instead of high strung wave one masters with $200 of flouro on their bases. I saw all of the sights for the first time, the powerline hills, the drummers, the icy luges, snowmobile hill, the 39k zone, the hundreds and hundreds of slow hacks blocking the trail on the left, even the super speedy wave 10 first timers that left me in the dust -- everything that makes the Birkie the Birkie.
Personally I had a good race. Kelly was an awesome supporter. She and I parked at telemark and walked down to the start area about 30 minutes before my start. Ten minutes to start I put on my skis and felt the magic of HF6 BD on my bases. (I learned after the race that my HF6 was a solid 10 degrees too warm, but I didn't know, I felt like I was flying!). I walzed up to the front of the flags on got into position one person behind the front line. It was cold, my fingers were freezing. I think it was still below zero.
The gun shot and I soon realized that I was one of the fastest skiers in the wave. I changed lanes during the double pole area and got to the front. (My garmin kept blinking "multiple HR monitors detected not only withinin the start chute, but for the first k!). Within, I donnno, 2k we stared passing wave 8 skiers. What the hell are these people doing out here? Some of them were korte skiers, but some of them were not. Either way, time to hang up the skis and take up baking or something guys. Wave 9 was all about confidence building, all I did was pass people, by the tens, all day long. Awesome!
I went out pretty hard judging from my heart rate, but I made an effort not to sprint or do anything stupid. I was above 170 for most of the first 10k but never hit 180 - firm but steady, just like Bullard told me. I did the first 9k in 33 minutes. At that point I recall thinking, a few times, "this is not as bad as I thought". I thought the lines at the hills would be much worse. The width of the powerline hills was awesome, not too bad. A lot of moving side to side, but that was fine with me. Just as long as I don't get totally blocked in. I was told that the hills at the beginning would be quite crowded and then things would thin out later in the race.
Strangely, thing NEVER thinned out. I'm serious. There were a metric shit of ton of hacks all over all the hills, all the time. All the way to B hill and beyond. In fact, I got more trapped in behind decrepit, cramping, falling no talent at B hill at the 40k mark than any other hill. My heart rate at end of the steepest part of B hill was 161, no kidding! Granted that is my threshold, but still, I was resting on the way up that thing.
That was fine with me though, I was loving the race the whole time. Much easier than running a marathon, easier than the way people had me anticipating. That's not to say I didn't get dizzy down the final stretch, and that I'm not sore today, but I was expecting to get to the "Am I going to be able to finish at this pace?" or even "Am I going to be able to finish at all?", but I really never did.
Part of it may have been smart pacing and hydration. I skipped the first feed. Then at the next feeds I had two cups of HEED and a banana at every stop except OO, where I blew through it to meet Kelly, who had a delicious gatorade, two excedrin, and a warm GU packet for me. Turbo boost!
As I arrived at OO, I checked my watch, EXACTLY 1:30:00. I had heard that was about the halfway point in terms of timing, which put me on pace for a three hour race. That put me in an excellent mood. But, the snow had been falling for about 30 minutes at this point (the winner had been resting for 30 minutes, I later discovered!) and things were slowing down a bit. My tendinitis in my elbow was hurting pretty good by this point so I was hoping the excedrin would keep it at bay. I kept up the steady strong pace until mosquito brook. I was feeling a little bit hungry, so I was super pumped to see Kelly there with a warm GU and a smile. She was at a flat area and the GU was not opened so I kinda yelled at her to open it and at that point she steped on my ski and I went down pretty firmly. She felt terribly and I felt selfish for asking her to open it and not stop completely, it was my fault that I fell, not hers. She said I seemed a bit out of it. I probably was. She caught me on the hill and I was able to slow down a bit and thank her and told her I'd see her at the finish. At some point a bit later, maybe around 43k, I checked my pace and I was right at 3:30 - time to get my butt in gear!
I dug in and climbed the hills hard and got my HR up into the 175+ range here and there again, the first time since the first 15k. I started seeing some dudes that had passed me earlier in the race. My eye was trained to spot wave 9 skiers like a hawk at this point. From time to time one would pass me, and vise versa. Then I hit the lake and started to V2, people were really camping out on the lake, it was fun to hear many of the fans notice my bib color and exclaim "way to go wave 9!" - I was feeding off of anything positive I could at that point to keep up my pace. The last 2 or 3 k was one of the few places I was not checking my watch - the HR data, pace info and timing were a welcome distraction throughout the entire thing.
The race up main street or whatever street that is was a blur, and I crossed the line in 3:24, I was really happy with my effort, I could not have done anything better on race day.
Of course I could have trained more, next year I'll be wave 4 or 3 and train a bit more, maybe even use some pure flouro. That's it for now, I'll proof read tomorrow.