A Birkie in Two Parts: Part One - Pre-Race
Birkie race morning is always a little chaotic since there are over 9,000 racers in a small town trying to get to a parking lot to get on a bus to be dropped off at another parking lot where they walk in a large crowd of nervous people to the start.
For some reason I can never truly remember how long this will take so on more than one occasion cut things really close. Of course I never realize I’m cutting it close until the start is 15 minutes away and it’s crunch time. Of course it isn’t actually necessary for me to start with my wave as the race is chipped time so I can technically start anytime after my official wave time of 8:40am (Wave 4 Classic). However unlike some people I do want to start with my wave. It gives that official crazy Birkie feeling.
Let’s start this story with my morning with getting on the bus. It was 8am when I was on the bus and so I felt like I had plenty of time. Once the bus made the short trip from Pilot Fish Inn parking area down the road to Telemark Resort I briskly walked to the start area where I needed to:
- Go to the bathroom;
- Get my skis from CXC (who waxes the skis of all the team members and brings them to the start)
- Put on my ski boots
- Leave my drop bag at the appropriate truck
This is not a long list of items so it seemed like I would be right on schedule. I started with going to the bathroom. I know of a porta-potty that is a little out of the way and it has always worked well for me in terms of avoiding super long lines. Things looked good this year with only maybe 4 or 5 people waiting in line which is pretty short by Birkie standards. But then I’m waiting, waiting, waiting. What are these people doing??? I decide to put on my ski boots while I’m in line to save time. Okay, that’s done and I’m waiting, waiting, waiting. For real what is taking people so long??? I decide to take off my overpants so I have one less thing to do. At this point the elite men's skate wave is going off so it is now 8:25am. then the elite women at 8:27am and I’m still in line.
I’m a little freaked out with less than 15 minutes to go and still I’m just waiting. What the hell are people doing?. FINALLY I’m in and thanks to my “ninja” porta-potty skills I’m in and out fast. However at this point I’m freaking but I still think I’m okay on time if I hustle.
Next up is finding my skis. This is where trouble sets in for me. I make a pass through where I expect them to be but I don’t see a Salomon tent or banner or flags which is what I think I’m looking for to find the CXC team area where my skis are waiting. I walk all the way down the field from my porta-potty to where the main porta-potties are located and I don’t see a tent or flags. I’m getting a little nervous but I figure I’m just confused as to where they are so I look in the next possible location.
Time is getting tight and I worry is starting to creep in. My teammate Ann sees me and asks if I know where the skis are as she is in the wave just 5 minutes behind me and hasn’t found them either. I say no and she goes to the announcers stand to get them to announce where they are.
At this point I abandon looking for my skis and just decide to deal with my drop bag. Of course, once you are starting to get stressed it seems like you become unable to even do simple tasks efficiently. I do the same drop bag procedure every year but this year I couldn’t seem to get it together.
Carrying your extra items for the finish line around in the plastic Birkie bag is a recipe for disaster. It is awkward to carry on the bus and to the finish line. Plus it is very easy to rip it such that you are left without a bag. This has led me to using a Timbuk2 tote bag that I put all my items into and then put inside my Birkie bag. It is easier to carry and if the plastic bag rips you can just tie it onto the tote bag handles and still have it transported and located at the finish line.
Sounds well planned, right? It is a solid plan and it has worked for me not just at the Birkie but at other races with plastic drop bags as well. However for some reason this year I was floundering around at the drop bag area. I already had my warm up pants in my tote bag and had my winter boots in there as well. I had no trouble getting my down jacket in and got out my water belt (with stapled on Clif shots) and got the correct gloves on as well. The tote bag zipped up no problem even with extra clothes, boots, warm up pants, down jacket and dry gloves and a hat. However, I couldn’t seem to get the tote bag into the plastic Birkie bag. I knew it would fit as I had done this every other year. However, my nervous excitement over my rapidly approaching start time was making it impossible for me to figure out how to accomplish this relatively simple task. Yes, the tote bag is a tight fit in the bag but far from an impossible puzzle. After maybe four times. . . . and the passing of what seemed like an eternity . . . I finally got the tote bag into the plastic bag and into the right truck.
By now my friend had got an announcement made that CXC skiers should get their skis by the flag poles. Now I feel like an idiot as I had passed by there thinking that is where my skis would be but in my nervous rushing around had not seen them. At this point the wave which is starting 5 minutes before me is going off and so I’m in full on frantic racer mode (you know, where normally smart people behave like idiots because their brains are no longer functioning). I get over to the flag area and luckily one of the waxers, James, is there to assist me as I do not think I could have found my own skis. Not that it should be that hard as they are labeled with my name and are one of the few pair of Rossignol skis in the lineup. James luckily finds my skis and hands them to me. Of course, now I can’t even do a simple task like take the ski holders off so James takes them from me and removes the holders. At this point clearly I’m not capable of coherent thought and I may or may not have thrown the ski holders on the ground. I had nowhere to put them them since I’d already gotten rid of my drop bag (where they normally get put so I have them later at the finish).
I have to stop now to give a huge shout out to James who must think I am the most sketch person ever for arriving to get my skis so late, not being able to find them myself, not being able to remove my ski holders and for (possibly) throwing my ski holders on the ground. I want to say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for your patience, assistance and clear head. I really am not usually like that.
Okay, so now I finally have everything I need but literally time is of the essence. So I’m running (yes, actually running) towards the start area, the adrenaline is flowing and I’m just hoping I’m going to make it. Of course, at this point it is clear that I have completely lost my mind so I can’t even get to the start area in a sensible and efficient fashion. No . . . instead I get into the area behind the start line where people go prior to their start. Of course, if your wave is already on the start line then you are in the wrong place. Finally I get my head together and I realize I’m surrounded by the chaos that is Wave 2 skate. SHIT! Now I have to fight my way out of the holding pen which I luckily accomplish by climbing over the snow fence and luckily have just enough self respect left not to trip and fall. I throw a few elbows to get the crazed Wave 2 skaters trying to get into the holding pen out of my way so I finally reach the starting area where the other Wave 4 Classic skiers are lined up.
I’ve got a minute and a half to get my skis on, my poles on and get myself focused. Let’s just say I’m not in heart rate zone 1 or 2 at this point. Somehow I do have mental capacity to get my skis and poles on in the allotted time. I do somehow manage to knock one of the Clif Shots stapled to my water belt off but I have time to grab it and shove it in the waistband of my tights.
Arriving so late I am lined up so far back that I can feel the breath of the psychotically crazed Wave 2 skaters (who all believe they should be in the elite wave) breathing on my neck. I just hope that they don’t pull the gate for them to move into the starting pen before I can clear the area (this has happened before and classic skiers were trampled!).
And then BAM goes the gun and we’re off . . . . well sort of. This is the Birkie after all and it takes awhile if you’re lined up in the back, back, back for you to really feel like you’re going but I feel a huge sigh of relief as I’ve made it and I have the right skis and poles. I’ve remembered to remove my warm up items. I changed into the right weight of gloves. I remembered to put on my water carrier with the stapled on Clif Shots.