5 Tips for the Best Birkie Ever
Happy Birkie week everyone! I hope you’re all taking your medicine to treat your Birkie Fever; my medicine has been enjoying some skiing at home in Minnesota and spending time with friends and family after being on the road for four months.
I had a last minute change of plans to race the Birkie this year, but now that I’m signed up for it I’ve been doing whatever I can in these last two weeks to prepare the best I can. Here are a few tips that I’ve been keeping in mind:
1. Trust your training:
At this point, the training has been done (or not) and it’s time to use that training to give yourself a good perspective on hopes and expectations for race day. No skier has ever been able to get Birkie fit in one week, but they can overdo it and get really tired before race day.
In the past, I’ve tried to hit one last hard workout on the Tuesday of Birkie week. This might look like 3x6 minutes of 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off, going pretty hard, or a ladder/pyramid going 4-3-2-1-1 minutes of pretty hard (L4) skiing. After that, I rest for Wednesday and Thursday; I ski for 1-1.5 hrs each day to keep my body moving but don’t push it too hard or worry about ‘training hours.’ Finally, on Friday I like to do 3x4 mins of threshold skiing just to wake up my body again and get a good sense of the pace I’ll be trying to ski the following day. One of those afternoons when I have good energy I might go for a jog and do some core or body weight strength. This helps engage my muscles without feeling any fatigue or soreness on race day. The rest of the time? REST!
2. Prepare your gear:
I feel very fortunate to have a great team at Gear West and Swix who have been so supportive over Birkie week. They help me test my Salomon skis to see which boards are running fast and look at the forecast to predict what structure, grind, and flex of ski (how stiff or soft) will work best. Then, we chat wax. It’s been great to see the ski world move away from fluoros and this team has helped me dial-in on the wax!
3. Prepare your fuel:
Fueling for 50k can take a lot of energy and focus. It starts the week before and gets more intense as you approach the race. I continue to focus on maintaining a well-balanced diet with carbohydrates, protein, and fruits & veggies, but make sure I’m getting ENOUGH calories. That means prioritizing some extra snacks (muffins) and adding more simple carbs (extra bread with dinner). As the weekend approaches, I shift my plate to look like the following: half carbohydrates, ¼ protein, ¼ fruits & veggies, with healthy fats mixed in everywhere. Lucky for me, my mom makes some pretty amazing pasta for Friday night!
Earlier in the week, I make sure I have a functioning water bottle carrier, secure water bottle and some fuel to stock this with. I take these out to training during the week and practice taking feeds while moving at high speed to simulate what I’ll be doing during the race. I happen to be fresh out of my Tailwind Nutrition electrolyte mix, so I’m planning to swing by Gear West to pick up a few packets of the Cola flavored and Green Matcha caffeinated mixes. In previous years, I’ve tried to drink through an entire water bottle of Tailwind before I hit OO and then I switch bottles with a family member or someone from Swix/Salomon to top me off through the finish.
4. Dial in your clothing:
Fifty kilometers is a long time to ski if you’re freezing cold or sweating through your suit, however, I’d prefer the latter. If I get too cold I find it hard to focus on my race, feeding, tactics, and the racers around me. This means I put a lot of thought into my layering options. This weekend is looking like it will be a beautiful one! Although, the elite women start around 8:15, which means it can be pretty chilly for the first half of the race. I’m anticipating racing in long-underwear on bottom, with a short sleeve shirt under my race suit on top. I’ll probably use thick gloves, but not my warmest mittens and wear a fleece headband with a buff around my ears that I can pull it down if I get too hot.
5. Embrace the fever!
Every year I race the Birkie it has been at the same time as either World Championships or the Olympics, which means I’m NOT racing at those events. However, every year the Birkie is the HIGHLIGHT of my season! The atmosphere, enthusiasm and pure joy for skiing that is evident over Birkie week brings me to such a happy place. Birkie Fever is real and it gives me so much love for the sport. It fuels me through the remainder of my season and inspires me for another one. I try to embrace every kilometer through the Northwoods of Wisconsin (and of course enjoy the beer and brats at the finish line too).