Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Fat Bike Birkie race report

Friday (day before the race): I was up at 5 a.m. and out the door by 6. After a quick stop for coffee I drove 2.5 hours North to pick up Jorden. He was literally waiting for me right off an exit ramp! We threw his Mukluk and bags in the truck (Big Red) and were on our way.

The 12 hour drive to Cable, Wisconsin went by much quicker then I thought that it would. Maybe I'm becoming immune to long trips in the car??? Anyways, it seemed like we were pulling into the Telemark lodge in no time. After picking up our registration packets we ate a quick (and not very good dinner), and then ate a second dinner of food we had brought with us. Jorden had peanut butter and bread and I had trail mix plus some cold, hard mac&cheese. Dinner of champions :-)

I was in bed and sleeping by 9 a.m. I think it was the most sleep I've ever gotten before a race.

Saturday (race day): When my alarm went off at 5:45 a.m. I was awake and ready to go. The Fat Bike Birkie started and ended at Telemark lodge and I have to say it was a great feeling knowing that we didn't have to load up our gear and rush to a different venue. The race started at 8 a.m. and all I had to do was roll my bike out the front door to the starting line.

Lots and lots of fat bikes were rolling around. The Fat Bike Birkie had a cap of 300 racers and filled up long before race day. It was by far the biggest fat bike race in the United States. Normally the Birkie trail is closed off to bikes in the winter, so it was a really great experience to be able to race fat bikes on it.

I had no clue who I was racing against, and quite frankly it's kind of hard to tell racers apart in the winter. With so many layers, goggles and more layers everyone looks the same :-)

The wait for the race to start seemed to last forever but finally the air horn went off. Everyone took off hard and before I knew it we were heading uphill. My lungs instantly went into shock from the cold air. Ouch! I could see two women in front of me and slowly weaved my way up to them on the first climb. They were racing fast and it took a while to catch up and pass them. I was hopeful that I had taken the lead but it was impossible to know for sure. All I knew is that the field was really competitive and that I had to stay on the gas the entire time!

Within a few miles I could see why the Birkie trail is so famous. It was absolutely beautiful. The course was wide and perfectly groomed and I felt like I was watching a montage of winter wonderland scenes. A light snow was falling, and the trees lining the trail were covered in blankets of white. At one point a few deer  hopped across the trail in front of me. I was like, "is this for real?" If it weren't for the sound of my raspy breathing and burning legs I would have thought that I was dreaming.

I had been warned that the course was hilly and that was no lie! The hills were mostly rolling but there were some steep ones thrown in too. I decided to approach each hill like I was racing on my SS, and it seemed to help a lot. Instead of shifting into an easier gear I hammered as hard as I could at the bottom and sometimes the momentum would carry me almost to the top. Key word being sometimes. There were a few hills where I was forced to use every single gear available on my bike :-)

My favorite point was near the half-way point. I crested a hill and found skiers lined up on both sides of the trail. They all started shouting and yelling that I was the first female. It was really cool that they came out to cheer us on. Even though I was deep in the hurt locker I was grinning from ear to ear.

Finally I reached the half-way point, and headed back. I couldn't see anyone directly behind me but knew that I had to keep pushing hard to the end. There were more lung bursting climbs and some really fun descents. The entire race was so much fun and I tried absorb it all while racing. There were quite a few aid stations on the course and all of the volunteers were great. At one aid station a volunteer shouted that I only had 15K to go. I found myself in the same predicament I was in during the Crank the Shield stage race I did in Canada last year. It is impossible for me to convert kilometers into miles when racing. FYI: It's almost impossible for me to convert kilometers into miles when NOT racing..haha!

Finally I saw a sign that said 1000 meters to go. If felt like WAY MORE then 1000 meters but finally I saw the lodge, a ton of flags and heard the announcer calling my name and saying that I was the first placed female.

Such a great feeling! This is by far one of the best races I have ever done. It was well run, and the course was amazing. The Birkie trail has long been the racing grounds of famous skiers, and I have to admit that it felt really cool to race on the same course as them.

The awards ceremony was a great time with food and the chance to discuss the race...I guarantee you it will sell out even faster next year. Hopefully there will be an even bigger cap.

Podium pic from the awards ceremony...I was up there with some fast ladies!!!

The Birkie wall of fame...lots of different countries are represented. The winners all had the same look of pure happiness. Naturally I scouted out a few locations in the lodge that would be a perfect place to start a Fat Bike Birkie wall!

After the award ceremony Jorden and I headed into town to check out a pizza place recommended to us,  The Rivers Eatery. It was started by a few mountain bikers who fell in love with the area and had great organic salads, wood-fired pizzas and awesome beer and wine. If you are ever in the area be sure to check it out!

My only complaint about my pizza was that it was too small...I should have ordered two!

That night Jorden and I went to the Fat Bike Birkie after-party for a while, talked about fat bikes a lot and then I went to bed. We lost an hour to the time change and an hour when we crossed time zones so the ride home was kind of brutal. The race made the long drive totally worth it though.

Another bonus of the trip was getting to know Jorden. At times I had to act as his agent because he's so humble. When people would ask how he did he would always respond with "pretty well" so I would have to butt in and tell people that he was the overall winner! I predict lots of amazing wins in his future!

More pictures and an interview that I did with fat-bike.com can be found HERE! My video interview cracks me up. Scott asked if I was reading a cue card because at times I was looking off to the side. There were multiple cameras though, so I was just trying to keep all of my bases covered!

Next up is Barry-Roubaix. That's not until next weekend though so I'm planning on doing as little driving and as much riding on my Beargrease as possible for the next two weeks. As much as I love traveling and racing I'm really, really happy to be home with Scott, Ben and Naomi!

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