Monday, February 25, 2008

The Birkebeiner: The Tradition Lives On


It was cold when I stepped out of the car. I felt unprepared for it as I skied over to the start area and quickly ran into warming tent to thaw my numb hands. The time before the start of any race is agonizing and Birkie is even more so than others: trying to stay warm, yet not over dressing for the race. Finally the time came near and I stripped my warm-ups and lined up at the start with 800 other skiers.

Having started medical school this year, it has been difficult to get out and ski as much as I had hoped. It has been a struggle to stay healthy and strong as in former years, because the lack of sleep, struggling to get enough/healthy food, and overcoming general brain fatigue that kills my motivation on daily basis. So I came to the start line this year with some doubts to my condition and kept the expectations for myself low.

The gun went off and river of skiers left the gates and flowed onto the course. It took at least 10 km for the race to spread out. I was feeling fairly comfortable with my pace, and was constantly monitoring my fatigue making sure not to "bonk" (a ski term for debilitating leg muscle cramps). The first half of the race went fast.

Things started slowing down around 30km the distance started to go by slower, I started to notice the first inkling of some muscle fatigue coming on. I quickly modified my technique as to rely more on my arms and polling, and increasing my tempo. By the time 40 km came around, I had officially began to bonk. On hills my legs stiffened up with knots in quads that I pushed through with a grimace. On level ground my legs would gradually loosen up. Around that time mentally things began to improve as the city of Hayward came into view.

Main street in Hayward:
It's never disappoints that in skiing your picture is captured
at the less than flattering moments, I'll give myself a break... I'm tired!

As I skied out onto Hayward Lake and 1 km left to go in the 51km race I was excited for the finish, a smile began to break on my face. I skated down the main street of Hayward with blue skies overhead and the sun shining bright and finished my 5th American Birkebeiner. Though it may not have been apparent from dazed expression on my face, I walked away from the finish happy. To my surprise I found out later that I had skied only not incredibly slower than years previous.

7 comments:

Nora said...

Great job Burgess! Competition , at least for me, has always been about myself and not about beating someone else. Win or lose the question has always been "did you do your personal best" and was the challenge worthy. You achieved that!! The Birke is on my "to do" list. Maybe next year.

Snow_King said...

That is a long way to ski.

Jenean said...

Hey Burgess - I didn't know you had a blog!! It's going to be fun checking it out, another thing to distract from work!! And thanks for the birthday wishes.

Anonymous said...

Hey Burgess, love the blog. I'd heard you did some kayking this summer but wow.

Keep on keepin' on.

David

Anonymous said...

Hey Burgess, love the blog. I'd heard you did some kayking this summer but wow.

Keep on keepin' on.

David

Anonymous said...

Wo

Anonymous said...

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