Canadian Birkie, Feb 11th 2023
Third time of doing, second without pack, or ‘lite’. 55k. Rolling birch
landscape, lots of ups and downs resulting in a total elevation gain of
nearly 700m. Very different from where we live in Canmore. Clive at last
made the start line, his fifth time of trying. Natasha lining up to mash
her 31k, aiming to get under 3hrs. Clive with his first Canadian
Birkie, hoping to finish without injuring himself in around 6hrs. Me,
4hrs was my target, last year being 4.28.
Weather was marginal, with low snow levels and higher than normal temps.
However, the groomers had done a wonderful job on the Thursday and the
weather gods were in a favourable mood, with the morning temperatures at
-5C, and after midday +2C.
First or second start wave? First wave was billed at 3.30 or quicker. I
opted for towards the front of wave two. Mistake. For 5km we were
bunching, jostling, weaving and accelerating, to get past those who had
started in wave one but most likely finishing in 5-6 hrs. Quite fun, but
unnecessary stress for sure.
Up and down, around the bends, along the straights we go. Double poling
with ease and rhythm. Big grin on my face, as I sailed through all the
first three aid stations. I was trialing Hammer Perpetuem as my liquid
fuel and a big squeezey of Hammer Huckleberry gel, which I am actually
quite fond of. Both had their challenges - I had no idea how much I was
drinking as my liquid was in my hydration bladder in the back of my
pack, and the gel was just too cold to pull through the squeezy nozzle.
However, the bladder system worked very well for the act of drinking,
but the gel pack was clumsy and awkward.
Back to the fun I was having - which lasted two full hours. After this,
there was a very apparent temperature spike and the snow just changed.
For the worse. Flow stopped and hard work started. Over the second half,
I lost any advantage I had, finishing is 4hrs 14mins. There were
occasions when nice glide happened, but any flow was short lived. I
passed a couple of skiers who had stopped to rewax their skis, but I
seemed to be holding my own. 40-50km was hard, with a long stretch
alongside a fence line. Never seemed to stop! However, the 50k marker
was passed and the adrenaline started to flow. Fun time, though hard
work. I was very happy to see Natasha and the finish line.
Natasha finished a storming 2hrs 49m, very happy indeed. Clive completed
the 55km lite in 6hrs 01 min, very happy just to complete it. I raced
well, and as ever held my own over the course. I started off 14th
through the first checkpoint and ended up 11th in my age.
I only fell the once - whilst stationary at an aid station. Although the
plan was to not to use any stations, I fancied a cup of water at one of
them. I had the usual banter exchange as I skied in of ‘what do you
want’ ‘water!’ ‘Gatorade’ ‘ no, water’ ‘I have gatorade. You want
water?’ ‘Yes, please, water’ and then promptly got my skis and poles in
a tangle, face planting the snow ahead in the process. At least I gave
all something to brighten up their morning :) .
Once in the massive but draughty public tent, I realized I was in a sort
of heaven. The muffins had run out, the hot dogs not appealing but there
in front of me was a Costco box of Tetley tea bags and an urn full of
boiling water. The icing on the cake was the thermos of milk I had
bought myself in my drop bag. Happy Tim! Clive came in happy but pretty
tired, having had a wonderful ride. He had finally done the Canadian Birkie.
Great organization by the Birkie committee. Kudos to all. Not convinced
with all the viking costumes or the Viking Keep Fit warm up at the start
though. Work needs to be done with the start wave selection, as too many
start way ahead of their realistic finish time. It is a very much all
inclusive, all encompassing event which I would love to do again. But
next time sub 4hrs.