Mill & Mountain - Slow & Makin' It Work: 2022 Birkebeiner
What does cross country ski racing have to do with starting a Made in the USA apparel brand (www.millandmountain.com)? Maybe it’s that they both have “ups” and “downs" … or maybe it’s the fact that the journey is pretty fun … or maybe that you need to just keep going no matter what. Maybe also add the factor that I am a slow skier (as in “slow & makin’ it work ….”)! .No matter, there ARE similarities, so that’s what I’m writing about this time! Here goes: .Feb. 26, 2022 I did the American Birkebeiner - a long-standing cross country ski race. This is a super fun event with amazing karma, so I am psyched to share some of my thoughts about it..What It Is... The Birkebeiner is a 48-year old cross country ski race in northern Wisconsin. Thousands of people from all over the country - and, actually, from all over the world - show up every year to compete in one of a number of different events, including shorter and longer classic and skate xc races. (“Classic” and “skate” are the two different techniques/types of xc skiing.) I did the 55 km classic race. It was "type 2” fun (that is, not exactly a "fun” kind of fun), and / but awesome. .What It Involves. The race organizers have a trail that runs about 35 miles between the northern-Wisconsin towns of Cable and Hayward. You start, you ski, your (hopefully) finish! :) How I did it. For me it made most sense to fly to Minneapolis the day before and drive up the morning of the race. Hotel options are slim right near the race course, so we drove to the northern suburbs of Minneapollis and spent the night there. We had about a 2-hour drive the morning of the race. Easy drive, no prob. You park and there are school busses to take you to the start line. All super well organized. My 16 year old daughter came with me, and she spent the day as a volunteer at the finish line - where, among other things, she helped someone with his skis who had just competed at the winter olympics! .Wow, there are a ton of people that do this race – thousands!! You would not envision that there could be that much spandex - and, frankly, that many cross country skiers - in the country, especially that want to ski ~35 miles. .The Course. Rolling, hill after hill after hill, wooded, beautiful. See below for a side view of the vertical. About 3800 feet of climbing in total. Many, many, many little hills. The descents were also many, and fast. I clocked almost 30 mph on one descent, and regularly got to 20-25 mph on the downhills. Super fast, super fun. Had a few minor spills, nothing much. .All the training I had done beforehand had strengthened my triceps a lot, so I was able to do a lot of "double poling” (where you are pushing with both arms/poles at the same time), which makes you go faster - so I was passing people all day long. .My goal was to finish in under 6 hours, and somehow my official finish time was ~5:59:54 or something close. This put me at about the 60-65th percentile of finishers, so I definitely think there is room for getting better! .Training. Roller skis! I did tons of “roller skiing” (using “roller skis” - the closest you can really get to xc ski training in a place with limited or no snow) in the couple of months before the event. And I skied whenever I had the chance. But being on the southern side of the mid-Atlantic, the actual white stuff was pretty limited and unpredictable. I typically had an increasing progression of workouts during the week - going my regular 10 miles (combined between walking, running, and rollerskiing) on days earlier in the week, with some bigger days later in the week (12 to 15 miles), and a long day on the weekend (20+ miles). The more you go, the more you gotta go to get your fix. And … at least for me (and YMMV) you gotta do some longer days to prepare yourself for a longer event. I did taper a bit right before the event - with the last long day about a week before and a few light days right before the race. The good news is that roller skiing is low impact so it just doesn’t work you over like running. .Food. Nothing special. Regular healthy diet. Maybe have a protein shake or some tart cherry juice after an especially hard work out..Gear. I had a new set-up for this event - ~195 cm Atomic skis with integrated skins underfoot, plus Fischer boots. I actually hadn’t skied with either the boots or skis before race day (not recommended!). Anyway, the set-up worked great. They felt super snappy and fast..The Upshot. In contrast to some other events I’ve done, this one just felt enjoyable throughout. None of the mile after mile pounding that running can inflict on you. No altitude issues etc. I felt good at the finish. OK, maybe I WAS a little “skied out“ for the day. :\ .Can YOU do this? With a little training, of COURSE you can!