Spencer, Patrick, Anja, Sabra, and Wyatt raced the 2015 Birkeibeiner on Saturday in cold and moderate soft conditions with about three inches of new snow overnight. Toko LF blue, HF blue, covered with jet stream blue powder ironed in was fast throughout and seemed to provide as good or better durability as any wax out there. With just enough moisture in the new snow, jetstream blue powder was clearly running faster than lower flouro options. The skis were great and the team placed all five skiers in the top 22, including Anja on the podium in fourth place! Thanks to a bunch to Toko for the race support and to the weather gods for (slightly) warmer conditions on race day!
Snow conditions were a mixture of old transformed snow and fresh dry snow that was very cold. The length of the course proved to be very interesting as there were huge differences in the amount of snow that fell after final grooming happened. At 11k there was about 3-4 inches of powder on the trail but once you got past OO there was hardly any fresh snow on the course. For both glide and kick, I wanted to go with something that would not prove to be a high liability any of the conditions that the skiers would see out there.
For glide, we went with a mixture of Toko HF Blue with a little bit of X-Cold Powder mixed in. Definitely did not mix one to one with those two things as I still wanted the HF Blue to be the primary gliding component. On top of our base paraffin, we went with the iron application method of the Jetstream 2.0 Blue Block. In testing, we felt like powders were taking away from glide, where as blocks gave more top end speed but didn’t hinder the breakaway speed on the uphills. We went with the ironing in method of the blocks to have better durability for such a long race.
For kick, we went with a thin layer of Toko Green. With the snow crystals being so fine, there was wasn’t a need to make the kick wax have a lot of thickness to it. We kept our layers thin and kept the numbers of layers to a the minimum. Our kicking layers started with 2 full layers of Toko Blue, followed by a shorter application of Blue, then covered by 2 more full layers of X-Cold to speed it up for speed and for the fresh snow on course . For those that came back and said that they wanted a little more, we added an additional layer of Blue uncovered.
Thoughts on the American Birkebeiner by First Timer Anja Gruber (4th Place)
Finally, how was I gonna get to the start, where to put warm up skis, where to get bibs, where to feed, what’s the course like, the start area, the traffic situation etc??? Lots of unknowns!
Tatjana and I sprinted for third down Hayward’s Main Street and while she won the sprint and ended up on the podium after we battled it out for the last (brutal) 7k after Holly put down the hammer and dropped us, I was pretty glad to not have face planted in front of the huge (!!) crowd in Hayward. And trust me, I almost did because sprinting at the end of a marathon turned out to be pretty hard and 4th place is still pretty exciting.
Sabra finished top 15, and all three of our boys top 25, so I think it is save to say that the Far West Elite Team had a hell of a great day.
If you have done a marathon or even the Birkie before (in which case you should give yourself a pat on your shoulder right now) you might be entertained by some of my rookie mistakes, and if you haven’t maybe this will be useful one day.
Here are 11 lessons I learned from the Birkie:
It will slide down. It will slide down all the way to your calf. For some reason I thought that that one GU on my calf was gonna be all I needed, so about 30k through the race I figured I better take it. Especially since some of the other girls had been eating a whole lot more already. Don’t ask how I managed to fish it out of my tights while skiing- I won’t ever do it again.
(Caitlin Paterson showed me this trick, pretty smart). Put the GUs (plural!) in your sports bra, tape a string that comes out of the top of your race suit to them and tape that string to your bib. I’m sure staples and safety pins help a whole lot too.
and that it helped me out lots! I really ate a lot all last week, made sure I was well hydrated (DripDrop does the trick!) at all times while traveling, and fueled up on lots and lots of carbs on Friday.
Thank you, thank you, thank you Salomon. It is so nice to not have to deal with waxing skis (or testing), even though we do have all that good Toko stuff for our team to put on ourselves. The new carbon boards I was put on were incredible (pretty sleek and sexy looking too;)). In fact, think I had the fastest skis out there- every skiers dream!! The Salomon crew also supported me all the way through the races with feeds which, see #5, saved the day.
little cups spill when you grab them!
This race isn’t your classic show up at the venue-warm up-put your bib on-go race type thing I’m used to. Thus, it was so great to have someone who was driving, who knew where to get the bibs, what the different trail heads where etc. I also made a new friend, Ari, (see #6) who writes a blog called birkieguide.com. Check it out for some great insights!
I have never in my life seen so many skiing loving people in one place. It’s awesome! When I was traveling with my Toko bag, Salomon water bottle and shoes and Swix sweater I was recognized as a skier a whole bunch of times. (“Hey Swix, how was your race?” Or “my friend has the same sneakers, he’s a skier”) On the way to Minneapolis my answer to the question which start wave I was in (elite wave, first row, bib 6) got me some new friends and on the way home my 4th place finish got me a couple high fives and even a picture. Pretty fun!
I did, yay! I wasn’t cold, I wasn’t hot, I’m so happy. Wyatt has suffered from hypothermia at this race a couple times before so I was paranoid that I would get too cold- it was about 12F yesterday. Still, after my warmup I made a last minute call to take off my second layer on the top and go without face tape. I realized throughout the race that that was pretty smart because if you do get too hot and sweaty, you’ll get really cold on the downhills! One layer of wind proof Swix long undies top and bottom, toe warmers, buff, thick hat, Toko’s Arctic gloves and of course a little Far West face tattoo did the trick for me.
I got out of the doping control (try to pee after such a long race) where I made friends because I didn’t need a translator like the other European girls (thanks UVM) and I felt like a lost puppy. Soo many people in Hayward. Everywhere. Needless to say I was really really happy when Pat texted me to check in and I found Spence and the other Far West kids just a little after that. Big hugs from teammates help a lot when you are tired. I was very very tired.
They talk me through the race course, through potential racing scenarios, assure me that I have done plenty of long workouts, give me hugs and text me that I AM tough enough and that it WILL be fun. They give fantastic advice like to relax (duh), not to overthink, to suck tit (to hang on, definitely my favorite one), and not to lead on the lake (no comment). They also give out great love via phone before you can get your real life hugs – you guys all are the best!
Luckily I had made sure that I got plenty of sleep and rest the week prior to the race because I barely slept at all the night before. I thought I had done enough races this year that getting nervous wasn’t really a think anymore but I guess this one is very special
Big shoutout to all the sponsors – lots of awesome businesses, but also Far West’s amazing community – of the Far West Elite Team. We are incredibly fortunate to be able to travel all over the place and experience cool events like the Birkie. Wouldn’t be possible without all of you!
Anja Gruber, Far West Elite Team