As I look back on my second Birkebeiner, I can confidently say that I learned a lot, gave it my all, and am fired up to race it again next year. Although the race was now a few weeks ago, I thought I would give a little behind-the-scenes recap on what went down during the weeks leading up to the Birkie, along with during the grueling 50 kilometers themselves!
When it comes to marathon races, I always prioritize my rest, recovery, and health when leading up to race day. Although I typically try to do one to two intensity sessions during the week prior to a race, I think it’s important not to over-do it and to be flexible with your plan based on how you are feeling. This year, we had a spell of some bitterly cold weather in Bozeman during the week before the Birkie which made outdoor training a bit challenging. As a team, we try not to do too much intensity in temperatures below -4 degrees, so with temps in the -20s, we opted to cut out some of our intensity. Below I have included the training plan I was following during the 10 days leading up to the Birkie. I also included some of the adaptions I had to make do to the cold!
Thursday, 17: Easy classic distance (2:00 hours)
Friday, 18: Classic intervals, 5x4 minutes L4 (2:00 hours) / Easy jog in the afternoon (30 minutes)
Saturday, 19: Skate Intervals, 30 seconds on 30 seconds off for 45 minutes (2:00 hours) / Light strength in the afternoon (1 hour)
Sunday, 20: Easy classic ski (1.5 hours)
Monday, 21: Off Day
Tuesday, 22: Skate intervals, 2x5 minutes L3, 2x5 minutes building into L4 (2:00 hours) / Light jog and core in afternoon (1 hour) (Note: Tuesday was far too cold to do intensity, so we ended up just doing an easy ski in the morning instead)
Wednesday, 23: Easy skate ski (1:50 hours)
Thursday, 24: Travel from Bozeman to Hayward! Light jog in the morning before leaving and a short walk upon arrival
Friday, 25: Day before race!! Ski testing and a skate pre-race workout. 1x5 minutes L3, 3x3 minutes L4, and some speeds. / Light jog in the afternoon. (The winner of the ski test was a Salomon cold ski with a Pioneer SC1 grind!)
Saturday, 26: Race Day!!
(My teammates Reid and Simon prepping our Coke feeds the night before the race)
(Obligatory race bib picture!)
On Saturday morning, I woke up and had my usual race-day breakfast: oatmeal with peanut butter, blueberries, granola and honey, a cup of coffee, and a glass of Nuun electrolytes. As far as warmup goes, I am still working on dialing in my routine for marathon races. I used to think that I didn’t need much of a warmup before races over 30k, but I have come to realize that although these races are long, they still start out HOT. During the elite wave of the Birkebeiner, the skiers are not only competing to cross the finish line first but are also racing to be first across the “sprint prime” markers on the course which are situated at 2.1k and around 25k through the course. Whoever crosses each of these lines first wins $500, but going for these primes can definitely be a gamble. This year I found myself at the front of the pack as we neared the first sprint prime, and I decided to give it a go. Alayna Sonnesyn and I broke away from the rest of the pack and sprinted to the prime marker. Alayna beat me to the line, making my gamble not so worth it! But sometimes you just have to go for it!
Inevitably, I was pretty tired and had some lactic acid flooding in my legs after having sprinted, so I slowed my pace down and hung on to the back of the lead pack to try to recuperate. I stayed in this position for around 15k and eventually my fatigue caught up to me and I fell off the back of the group. After a few Gatorade feeds and a Gu, I started to feel better, and I began catching up to skiers in front of me. I ended up skiing with two of my teammates, Erika Flowers and Mariah Bredal, and we picked off a few more skiers that were fading in front of us.
(Skiing with my teammate Erika Flowers. Props to Skinnyski for capturing such a trippy photo!)
With around 7k to go, I started feeling the fatigue setting in strongly and new that I was about to bonk. I took a coke feed with around 5k to go which only slightly revived me fading body. After what seemed like a never-ending lake, I was re-energized by the roaring crowds on main street as I pushed towards the finish line. I ended up finishing the day in 12th place. This definitely was not the result I was looking for, as I had very high goals for myself. That being said, there were parts of the race that I know I skied very well and that I am quite proud of. Additionally, as a slight newbie to the marathon scene, I can confidently say that I learned SO much during this race and am fired up for next year!!
Thanks for reading!