Last year you said you’d never do it again and I’m pretty sure you said the same thing the year before too. Here we are, a little over a week away from the largest cross-country ski race in North America and you’ve got butterflies in you stomach because you are going to step up to the line and challenge yourself on a course that will demand all that you have. It really is hard to stay away. While talking to anyone who cross-country skis or even knows anything about the sport, the one question they all ask is, “Do you do that one race in Wisconsin?” It is the benchmark, the main goal, and the highlight of the year for most skiers. Like in marathon running, all you have to do is finish and you are a winner.
I have actually tried to win this race many times. I have had some of the worst races of my life at the Birkie, but I have also had some of my best. That is what keeps me coming back each year to battle the pack of Italians, the Norwegians, the Swedes, the Russians, and the top skiers in North America. I have had tunnel vision skiing across Lake Hayward more times than I can count, but I have also had the pleasure of sprinting it out with Silvio Fauner coming down Main Street. I have missed one or two due to sickness, but I have also broken up the main pack by putting in hard efforts. I have been the top American finisher and I have been far down the results list. You just never know what you are going to get on race day and it doesn’t really pay to worry about it now. There are 9 days left so all we can do is prepare our best, then race our hardest. You’ve done the work, now it is time to fine tune the engine.
Thur. Day 9: Skate Speed 10x30seconds
Fri. Day 8: Easy Distance Classic Ski (1-1.5hr)
Sat. Day 7: Intervals (4x4min with 2min recovery) or Race (10km to 30km)
Sun. Day 6: Easy Distance Skate Ski (1.5hr)
Mon. Day 5: OFF
Tue. Day 4: Easy Distance Skate Ski(1-1.5hr)
Wed. Day 3: Intervals (4x4min with 2min recovery)
Thur. Day 2: Easy ski with 5x15second pickups
Fri. Day 1: Travel or an easy ski, test skis, or short run
Sat. Race Day: Go hard!
Vary the hours depending on how much training you have been doing, but the work has been done or hasn’t been done (you know who you are), now it is time to rest up and get your body ready to recover quickly on every downhill so you can hammer every uphill. If you are feeling tired, throw in another day off, you won’t lose anything at this point.
It is really easy to get caught up in the excitement leading up to the race, but treat this race like any other. Don’t worry about your skis, they will be fine. Don’t try eating anything new that you haven’t eaten before or during a race, stick to what you know works for you. Be prepared, be relaxed, and remember to have fun! You may just surprise yourself…and if you don’t there’s always next year.