These were published in the SawyerCountyRecordNewspaper from Hayward, Wisconsin on February 21, 2007
The plan is to get the most glide possible. The Birkie requires that you keep a flat ski at all times. Try to step as far up the hill as you can, stepping out on a flat ski. This way you can get some glide going up the hills. When you have your leg extended and the ski is on its edge you should be stepping up the hill onto your other ski. When choosing a pair of skis for the race pick out a brand that is soft through its first third. The ski should also be the longest length that you are comfortable with going up hill. Most of your energy is used going up the hills, but you still want as much glide as possible going down hill. Shorter skis go up hill easier, but longer skis go faster down hill. Tarnow.
The Birkie is a very challenging and demanding race course - up hills and down hills are legendary! Skiers of all abilities have been humbled by one of the most difficult races on the World Loppet ski tour. Never stop your forward progress! If its an uphill, apprise the hill as you ski to it. Find the subtle nuances of the hill's terrain, and use those to your best advantage. Look where other skiers have gone and depending on your wave, don't get caught behind slower skiers even if it is the most opportune path up. Attack the uphill but be careful not to overdo it and lose precious energy needed for later in the race! The attack attitude is simply stated as "don't let the hill beat you - you beat the hill". On the down hills do not be afraid to "let your skis run" (see Axiom 1). While this may seem treacherous at times, especially with twisting turning hills and many other skiers in sight, the Birkie usually has a new uphill to attack immediately following! See Axiom 3 but remember to ski in control and now is not the time to ski beyond ability and training. Eroe.
It takes a lot more energy to accelerate after a slowdown than to work to maintain speed. If you have the energy and balance, try to skate all but the steepest down hills. On hills too steep to skate down, break into a skate as soon after the bottom as you can handle it. Skate or step turn around corners rather than snowplowing to maintain momentum. The track may be faster than the skating lane at times. Knowing how to marathon skate in a fast track is useful for overall speed as well as in passing slower skiers on the side. Find a group of skiers that are slightly above your ability and ski with them. They will pull you along as well as act as drafting for you. Burke.
If you are committed to racing you need to invest in not only good skis, but you need good poles and preparation equipment. This includes waxes and base preparation equipment. The texture of the base is as important as the wax. Toko makes a very good rilling tool that rolls over the ski. This tool makes a pattern that is broken up; somewhat like a tire. This rill takes the water off of the bottom of the ski so that the friction is reduced. More rill on warm days, less on cold. High tech extends to the waxes. Generally, in the Midwest the days are cloudy and the snow has a lot of moisture. The flouro waxes are necessary to go fast when the humidity is high. Tarnow.
This section discusses both hydration and carbo loading. Both need to be considered prior to your race. Current carbo loading technique for a marathon has you eating many meals for during the last few days before the race. This is more important than eating a huge meal the night before the race. However, Milan Baic, an elite citizen racer from Traverse City, says that he eats a plate of spaghetti for each 10 K and he seems to do "OK" in the races. Hydration also needs to be increased prior to the race. If you are going to ski the race in less than 4:00 you really do not need to eat during the race, but you sure do need to drink. I suggest a minimum of 2 glasses per aid station and never ever pass up an aid station without taking at least one glass. I suggest trading off between the energy drink and water. A couple of GU are good during the race, but make sure that you drink lots of water soon after eating it; timing is everything. Tarnow.
Do not take any of this too seriously. This is a part of your life that you chose to do. No one is making you do this. It is a crazy and grueling sport. What they say is true. Just finishing the race should be sufficient. A good placement or a PR are always great, but having fun and enjoying yourself enough to come back next year is more important. John Bruder, an orthopedic surgeon from Traverse City, says that "you should start off slow and then back off". Have a goal, but be realistic. If your skis are not working like they should, if your motor is misfiring, stop pressing, back off and enjoy the race. Tarnow.
Skiing the Birkie can and should be spiritual. First, its repetitive and second, you are sharing the experience with some 8,000 other skiers. By effectively managing the other axioms, skiers have described a state of inward peace and oneness during and after the race. By listening to your inner voice, your mantra will become apparent. Go with it! Let it carry you. By being balanced and centered you will be transformed from the here and now to the true magical experience of the Birkie. Remember, however, this is what has been described as "Birkie Fever". I trigger my Mantra by Listening To The Wind, Feeling My Heart, Using My Will and Opening My Mind. Eroe.