The “Other” Birkie Fever

FasterSkierMarch 1, 2006

“Birkie Fever,” I’ve come to learn over my five races at the The American Birkebeiner School for Those Who Need To Be Schooled In Ski Racing, can mean different things. I’m sure for some it can reach a fever pitch at the expo when you get to see three or four wax manufacturers making at least five different wax recommendations (solution seems to be to purchase all possible waxing products!), or “The Fever” can be the finish on Main Street which has been a real high point for me with block after block of cheering ski fans (just how long is that stretch anyway !?). This year I learned a new sense of the term when I got a nasty (actual) fever at the Birkie. I compounded that situation with record setting skis, I’m sure worse than most ever have set foot on. I appeared to have the worst skis in Wave 1. By far. We call that a PW — personal worst. Strange — those skis ran fine last year. Very well, in fact I moved up to 280th from wherever I was in 2004, and I’ve had a real solid season of improvement so I was allowing myself to hope for the Magic Top 200 Finish to earn Elite Wave Status. Birkie Fever had something to say about that !

It was a “character builder.”

For the first time this season I took a 2nd day off yesterday to shake it off permanently. Not as bad as the flu though, and I’m doing just fine in the days since. I never had a situation like it. It felt like this…

I was completely unable to process lactic acid, however I was producing it in abundance. Therefore the first hill felt like the last hill usually feels in a 50k. Then it got worse on each hill climb thereafter.

The fever gave me such hot clammy attacks during the race, I wanted to throw my hat in the snow, but it was zero (Fahrenheit!), and windy. My entire body would go instantly hot & clammy and I’d get a double serving of nausea. Very uncomfortable trying to race this way. Then the feeling would reside, leaving me with mere general misery, for which I could be thankful.

The general misery had a large element of nausea. If I pressed too hard, which wasn’t very hard, I would get slightly more nauseous, but I didn’t have a lot of room to fool with. But at least I could control that better than the hot attacks which were a real distraction.

I considered the race a step by step process and my thoughts were along the lines of…
The Start: The actual start went pretty well (meaning I didn’t break my poles, nor anyone else’s), so why aren’t I keeping pace like I should be ?
Powerline: Why would my legs feel this leaden this early ? It usually takes hours to earn this feeling!
Entering the forest: I better just ski over to the side by myself out of everyone’s way until my second wind comes in.
Highpoint: This hill grew a lot taller & harder since last year, for sure.
Double OO: If this is halfway there I may need the helicopter…
After that I recall talking myself thru each climb and “hot attack,” pretty sure I could survive the remainder.
Lake: Good. The Lake. Seems windy. Even for the Lake. The Lake has been more fun than this.

I finally nursed it into the finish just before nap time set in. I took a 2 minute nap on the finish line on all fours with my eyes closed. I took a one hour nap in the infirmary. I took a 2 hour nap in the condo. (You KNOW that’s not right!) I could not shake that sleepy & very lousy feeling so I think my body was saying it’d had enough with both the fever as well as the race. I began to rally around 6pm, about 6 hours after crossing the line, with some fruit & yogurt, and then I was ready for dinner and more sleep.

I had so many people tell me they thought I was a shoo-in for the Top 200 Elite this year. Tough to say, though. Clearly it takes a very good (to flawless) day to get there for a skier of my talent level. I skied with some friends in most races this season who put themselves well into the Top 200. There is only one solution for Birkie Fever — and you gotta go back to Hayward for the cure.


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