Although we both felt sluggish in the first half of the race (logical - since we barely fit in skiing this year), we were both able to negative split the course and finish strong. Our Boston and IM St. George training kicked in for those tough later hills. Looks like I passed more than 200 skiers in the last 20km. After reviewing the last 10 years of results, the numbers show that I raced my 17th Birkie about as well as any I've raced since having kids. Not bad for someone swimming, biking and running her way through Birkie training.
So why do we insist on racing a long, tough, logistically complex ski race in the middle of training for our upcoming "A" races? It is difficult to describe, but I'll try.
- For the JOY of it. The Birkie is a celebraton of skiing. Most of the 8000 skiers are there because they absolutely love to ski. This is the place to find like minded people and to celebrate everyone's race and everyone's stories from the past year and from their own 50km that day.
- For the INSPIRATION from it. The Birkie honors those skiers based on how many Birkies they've managed to finish (no small task). We got to see our friends Bob and Bill be honored for their 30th Birkies at a special breakfast. How inspiring to see our fellow skiers continuing to tackle this challenge well past retirement age. They are showing us the way to age with strength, joy, fitness and peace.
- APPRECIATION. As Birke skiers pursue the Birchleggings Award (given to those who finish 20 Birkies), inevitably we lose some of our skiing friends to deteriorating health and even death. We've also seen friends come back from cancer and traumatic accidents to race again. As we all do the math - estimating how old we may be when we get that 20 or 30 year award, we realize how precarious our goals are. I think we all race as if it might be our last Birkie - appreciating our good health and good fortune to once again toe the crowded starting line.
- For the FITNESS from it. When training for a spring marathon or Ironman, it can be difficult to fit in race experiences. Saturday, I raced HARD for 3 hours and 44 minutes. Although stiff and tired, the low impact nature of the race means that I'll be able to rev back up my IM training after 2-3 days of recovery workouts.
Don't forget JOY, APPRECIATION and FUN. Without those, how can you possibly be fast?