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 The American Birkie: I definitely caught the Birkie Fever…and I still have it!

 If you ever get a chance, head out to Telemark/Hayward to race the American Birkie. This is perhaps one of the best weekends I’ve had in my life! And being a ski racer and doing what I love, that happens a lot! But this weekend will be one of the best for a while. The reason I say this is because for the last 3 months racing hasn’t been very fun, in a lot of ways I felt like I was trying so hard to “pick myself up and dust myself off and get back out there” that I just got exhausted and really stopped loving skiing. Little did I know that a 52km race in Wisconsin and just over 2 hours I would find that energy and love of racing back.

 I love to smile and laugh and my cheeks are still sore from the four days of epic racing and a little bit of celebration!

The Birkie starts at the Telemark Lodge in an open field and then makes a quick turn to some steep hills followed by super fun rolling terrain- I was in love! I had no idea what to expect so I just skied and eventually we had whittled the pack down to four girls. We all worked well together, but at the same time I couldn’t shake the feeling that one of the girls would make a move and with about 5km to go Rebbecca went for it. I tried desperately to cover her, but just ran out of steam and then skiied 3m behind Taz across the lake because the wind was so strong and I couldn’t close the gap. As you approach Hayward you can see the water tower, but don’t be fooled- it is a LONG way away. Then as you enter the down town the streets are lined with cheering people and I think I had to remind myself to finish the race and then enjoy the atmosphere!

I am having a hard time putting into words why this race is so important to me- but all I can think of is that is was the first time since last spring that I had fun racing! The results come when there is balance and I think I found that in Wisconsin this weekend! Who would have thought?

I travelled with Lifesport from Calgary and they provided wax support and accommodation. My skis were rockets! Ian and Bruce did an incredible job and I was so relieved on the first downhill that I had comparable skis to the top women. I also got to hang out with some incredible people who love to race and train and relish the trips they do get to take like this away from their busy lives.

Throughout the course there are a lot of “theatrics”. Such as the drummers up the first hill, then of course ‘Bitch Hill”. The feed stations are also quite entertaining, you definitely had to keep your elbows up and stay alert because there were a lot of quick decisions by other skiers to move across the trail. That said, I have done a lot of loppets over the years, and the one part I had always found tough was managing the master men, most of them don’t really move if you are travelling faster, but at the birkie, they definitely moved and all together! It made the race a lot more seamless for the elite women for sure, as I don’t think I’ve ever done a loppet and not been a little intimidated by the men.

I also have to mention that the support from the race organizers was incredible! I met the most generous people at this race and you can definetly feel that they just love the Birkie and Cross Country Skiing.

Now on to the skiing- The trails were amazing. I had no idea that there were training opportunities in that area like the Birkie trails. The trails are super wide with a ton of terrain! It was a great weekend and I would definitely urge you to consider this race next winter! I will try to post photos when they become available!

 Ciao, Brooke

Oh and something completely unrelated: please go to my friend and I make toques as a creative diversion to the  intensity that racing and training can have…you can order them online and I will also try to bring some to Canadian Nationals and US Spring Series. If you are in the Bow Valley, you can buy them at WANT down town!  No two hats are the same!  We have had a ton of positive feedback and it has been awesome to walk downtown and see someone wearing our product. They are handmade with a very low environmental impact as we use antique buttons from thrift stores, leather scraps from a window covering business and the yarn and material used for the appliques are purchased locally!  We also have some t.shirts and loop scarves in the works with the same funky appliques! cheers!

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