Sunday, May 20, 2018

Cleaning Up After Ricky

Every year about this time the Snoqualmie Pass winter sports lovers, whether motorized or self-propelled, gather at their favorite snow-park to clean up all the trash left behind by the throngs who crowd the ski and snowmobile areas.  Every year, we find astonishing and/or disgusting things that people feel like it's okay to just throw out the window.  This year, it was the usual assortment of broken car parts and pieces of tires and used condoms and dirty diapers and needles and food wrappers and beer cans and various items of clothing in various stages of decomposition, leading me to conclude, as I do every year, that your average freeway/snow-park garbage thrower is a fast-food eating, cheap-beer drinking, hasty roadside love affair type of guy.

But this year, at Cabin Creek, we also found a bunch of containers of used motor oil, all piled up in the drainage ditch, which is not quite to the level of the dead horse we found one year, but several steps worse than the usual detritus.

We also found that one of the garbage throwers had left his name!  Way to go, Ricky!  Next time leave us your email address too so we can invite you to the next clean-up.

But never mind that; it was a splendid day to be outside, making our corner of the world a tiny bit cleaner and nicer.  The Momentum NW kids showed up in force, filling multiple big bags of garbage and then heading out onto the trails for a bounding workout.  Great work, kids, and thanks for chipping in!

And of course, the usual roster of Kongsbergers was there, working hard scrambling up and down embankments, hiking the trails, lifting and carrying heavy things, reaching and stretching and pushing and pulling, and generally getting in a good solid workout, out in the fresh air and sunshine.  As David pointed out, you could just cancel your normal workout regimen and do KSC events for fitness!   Big big thanks to the KSCers who showed up.  (There were many more than the people pictured here.  I couldn't catch everyone; they were moving too fast!)

But then, ahhh, then, lunch time!!  The highlight of the clean-up day is the incredible barbecued chicken that Kare and Aase make us every year, grilled outside over an open fire -- there is nothing in this world more delicious.  Thank you, Kare and Aase!  And thanks to everyone else who brought pesto pasta and okra rice and warm bread and berries and cobbler and watermelon; what a feast, to restore our tired muscles.

Rob played bartender at the special high-tech KSC beer cooler.

We sat out on the porch in the sunshine, laughing and chatting and solving all the problems of the world.  And we drank to the chicken and the clean forest air and the pure fun of working hard outside and celebrating the end of winter with your friends.  Thank you, everyone, for showing up and making a difference!

If you weren't able to make it this year, check in again next year.  This is a super fun and productive day with your skiing friends, an excellent workout in the gym of the outdoors, and maybe the most delicious lunch you've ever had.

Post Script: After lunch, Peter and Lisa mentioned that they were going mushroom hunting and I quickly invited myself along (after checking to make sure this wasn't secret code for a romantic interlude in the forest).  I've never been mushroom hunting before, and what a fabulous adventure it was!  We drove east, past Cle Elum, high up into the hills into an area that had been ravaged by wildfire last year.  (I am bound by the mushroom hunters code of conduct not to give you any more details.)

I did not know this, but morels only come out in the first year or two after a wildfire, and let me tell you, people, finding them is not a walk in the park -- I totally understand why they cost $70 a pound in the store!  We scrambled up and down burned hillsides all afternoon, bushwhacking through heavy undergrowth, pushing our way through tangled branches and bushes and trees, getting scratched and bitten and covered with dirt and charcoal, always looking down at the ground for the elusive morel; those little rascals are cleverly disguised, but we found them!

Enough to fill more than a bucket, and enough to share among the three of us.

Peter sent me his recipe for wild mushroom cream sauce and pasta, so I stopped at the farmers market this morning for fresh pasta and spring garlic and parsley and butter and cream to go with my precious mushrooms.  I am drooling already.  Thanks, Peter and Lisa, for this amazing adventure!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Surfing the Atmospheric River

Local weather blogs have been all atwitter all week about the impending atmospheric river this weekend -- a big one, not too unusual for November but something to get excited about in April.

I relish a good atmospheric river, but I had mixed emotions about this one; I don't especially like biking in the rain and this Sunday was the long-awaited, much-anticipated Emerald City bike ride on the viaduct and through the Battery Street Tunnel.  I love that rickety old viaduct with all my heart; there is no better way to come into and out of downtown Seattle in terms of spectacular views, and I'm going to be pretty sad when it's torn down next year to make way for a boring old bored tunnel.  Goodbye, spectacular views!

So atmospheric river or not, when cars are banned from the viaduct for a couple of hours early on a Sunday morning and bikes are given free rein, there is no way I'm going to miss that.  The storm was blowing in full force when I got up early this morning, raining hard and blustering harder, so I pulled on tights and wool sweater and rain jacket, wool beanie under my helmet, waterproof gloves (oops, forgot the shoe covers and my shoes quickly became swimming pools!), and headed out into the weather.  It was cool, and so Seattle, to see other bike riders heading in the same direction, and cars with bikes on their racks pulling out of their driveways and heading out.  A little atmospheric river is not going to stop Seattle bike riders from having an adventure!

I rode down the hill in time to get to the locks as soon as they opened at 7:00 and walked on through, waving hello to the friendly crew high up on the decks of a ginormous fish processing ship that was locking through, then rode downtown along the water.

The weather was really howling along the shore, with big waves crashing on the rocks at Myrtle Edwards park, strong gusting wind and heavy rain in my face.  I rode along with another woman heading to the same place, and we compared bike commuting and bike crash stories.  We left the bike trail at its end and joined the line of bikes riding down along the waterfront.  As we got closer to the ferry terminal and the south end of downtown, the street got sketchier and sketchier -- narrow and bumpy and potholed, as the big Waterfront Seattle project continues, all part of the viaduct coming down and the tunnel going in.  That's one of the projects I'm involved in at work, so it was very fun to be right in the midst of it.  I'm so glad I didn't drive to the start of the ride and miss the mess of progress!

At last we made it to the start area, where thousands of bike riders milled about, picking up numbers and grabbing coffee before heading out onto the viaduct.  And then, there we were, on the viaduct!  I've driven across hundreds of times, but there was something special about crossing it at a human-powered pace, up close and personal.  It really was an amazing experience, and I sang a little song in my head as I rode ("I'm so glad I did it!  I did it!  I got up and did it!").

It was over way too soon, because the viaduct really isn't that long.  We descended into the Battery Street tunnel, which, people, looks a little like a medieval torture chamber when you're cruising through slowly, looking all around, instead of focusing on the cars ahead of you -- all stained cracked walls and dripping water and eerie yellow lights.  This old tunnel is going to turn into a landfill for construction debris once the new tunnel is finished, so that will be the end of it.  Too bad, it's pretty cool down there.  I was in favor of making it into a skateboard park, but I guess no one else was!

And then we emerged from the tunnel, back into the rain and wind, and rode up Aurora and across the bridge.  We cruised down the first exit after the bridge, then wound our way down Stone Way to Lake Union.  From here the ride continued toward the I-5 express lanes -- also closed to traffic for the morning -- and back to the start, but that part wasn't as interesting to me and I had had enough of riding in a crowd.  So I turned the opposite direction, stopped at PCC for some pesto and greens, stopped at the espresso cart for a quick and warming macchiato, then rode along the ship canal, through the locks again, and up the hill to home.

Back home, I rinsed the road grime off my bike, put my soaking wet shoes on the boot dryer, changed into warm soft clothes, and made French toast.  Then it was couch time with a book.  It was a day of all my favorite things: rainy windy weather, big ship in the locks, viaduct, macchiato, pesto, bike, French toast.  What a splendid way to spend a Sunday and say goodbye to a Seattle icon!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Switching Over

This is always a bittersweet weekend: the last day of skiing, the first day of spring training.  If I could, I'd ski all year 'round, but then, of course, I wouldn't have the eager anticipation next fall as the days start getting shorter and colder.  I remember in January, when I was staring at Gunnar Hagen and MWC just weeks away, I promised that if only it would be spring again, this time I would train.  Really!  So here it is, spring, just as I requested, and I'm happy to spend the next six months or so biking and roller skiing and trail running, getting stronger and fitter, ready to jump enthusiastically on next winter's challenges.

But first, it was goodbye to winter.  I wanted to imprint some good hills on my legs before I put away my skis, so last weekend I spent some quality time on the Berg loop, around and around, remembering Peter's advice, snowplowing less and step-turning more with each lap, each lap a little faster than the one before.  Bonus points for the mini-terrain park left from the kids' races the weekend before, a chance for grown-ups to practice balance and quick reactions!

Then this weekend I headed to Stevens Pass for some absolutely sublime spring skiing: big sky, big mountains, big snow, soft filtered sunshine, fresh little breeze.  I skied up almost to the top, and then took the super-fun Gandy Dancer and Sideline trails back down, all twisty turning downhills, working the step turns and dodging the tree stumps that are starting to poke out of the snow.  Bonus points this time for the off-trail bushwhacking section on Gandy Dancer; I'm not sure what that part is training for, but it sure is fun!

It was a gorgeous day, and a total confidence booster: if I had skied these trails multiple times this winter, MWC would have felt very differently to me!  It's possible there will still be one or two more days at Stevens this spring before they pull the plug, but if this was the last day of the season, I can live with that, and head into the off-season feeling strong.

So now it's April and time to start spring training, and after the delicious weather yesterday, today was a typical Seattle turn-around.  I hiked at Tiger Mountain in the rain and cold and wind and hail, loving the storm and waking up my trail muscles, warning them that much more fun is ahead before we see snow again!

Last year was a difficult year for me on many levels, and my ski season was disappointing as a result.  But I seem to be related to those creepy kids' toys with the round bottoms; you can punch them in the face and they bounce right back up again.  So I take last year's goals, which never came to fruition, and just paste them onto next year!  Of course, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and expecting different results, so while the goals remain the same, the way to get there has to change.

There is no shortage of expert training plans out there, and I devour all of them the way some people read mysteries.  Each one has something different to offer, and it's a good exercise to figure out how to apply the best ideas to my own life.  So it was particularly fun to find a blog post from one of the Minnesota women who totally rocked the MWC in January and won her age group at the Birkie in February: Jan Guenther, nearly 60 years old, age-group winner (and sometimes overall winner!) in skiing and running and paddling races, and owner of Gear West.  She posts from time to time on her blog about training with aging knees and creaky muscles and a demanding job, and she put up a great article recently about how to get to next year's Birkie in the best shape, most prepared to race, that you can.  Here is the complete blog post,

and here, in a nutshell, is the abbreviated version:

  • strength training with core body focus
  • long pole hikes with bounding (several good local skiers have told me our good old Viking loop is perfect for this!  It's on my summer to-do list)
  • improving nutrition, not necessarily to lose weight but to maximize health
  • roller ski (of course!  Who wants to roll up to Snoqualmie Pass this summer with me?)
  • adding one fun cross-training activity (for Jan, it's swimming; for me, it's hip hop)
  • physically pushing yourself anaerobically one time per week (hello, Discovery Park stairs!)
  • introducing mental happiness training (because, seriously, if this isn't fun, why would we do it?)
  • if all else fails, clean your car or your office.  It's a good start.

So ... hello, April!  Hello, fresh new training year!  Winter is seven or eight months away, and those goals are not going to be magically reached without some work.  Let's jump in!
"The point is not to compare myself to others (there's always someone better-faster-stronger) but to recognize that there is so much room to grow, so many different ways to ask yourself to be surprising and amazing."  ~Heidi Swift

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Jim and the Locavore Birken

Some good Birkebeiner stories out there! Jim Felty and Doug Holtan did the mighty trifecta: the Canadian, American, and Norwegian Birkebeiners, all in one winter.  Rune did the mighty double: the American and Norwegian, with top-notch results in both.  And now Jim Slyfield has pulled off his second Locavore Birken, right here on the Cabin Creek trails, on the same date as the Norwegian version.   I admire his gumption: his version is feed yourself, time yourself, cheer for yourself; no fee, no medal, no glory.  Last year he did it in the pouring rain, all 54k with a pack on his back.  This year, well, here is his story.  Way to go, Jim!

Finish line photo from Alex Horner-Devine.  You know it's a good race when the observers outnumber the racers!

Locavore Birken at KSC


I accomplished my goal of classic skiing 54Km, with 3.5Kg pack, in a reasonable time. Same date, distance, and program as in Norway. No jet-lag and no rain, either. 

Jeff McGrew picked me up at our home at 7am, then to the Issaquah Transit Center to get Victor. At the cabin we talked to Joe McNulty about his new skis.   Finally ready and at 9:05 I was underway. 

First lap was the Berg-Viking (6.5Km), then five times around the (9.5Km) Berg-Viking-Road that we use for the Ozbaldy. Classic Technique, 54Km total distance, with 3.5Kg pack. 

Weather was decent.  Just below freezing at the start, some clouds/some sun-breaks.  Warmed up during the day.  Low 40’s by 4pm.  Harsh morning snow thawed to mush during the day.  Timing system was the “Swix o’clock” and a clipboard/pencil in the timing shed.  Write down the time of day at the start/finish of each lap.  9:05am start time and 2:35pm finish time for 5:30 total time. 

Some notes--- 
Lots of skiing—54Km and 5:30 total time start to finish. 
Most laps were almost an hour, which included 4-5 minutes to eat/drink.
Had to re-apply Klister 3x.  Took about 5 minutes for each of these.  
The first 6.5Km B-V and 9.5Km B-V-Road laps were fast with good traction. Then it started to thaw and the abrasive snow wore off the wax.
2-3rd laps were slippery, had to really be delicate and deliberate setting my wax or I’d slip out.
** Joe’s new mohair skis would have been worth trying at this point!
Mushy snow on 4-5th laps  Finally got better traction after re-waxing at the start of the 4th lap.   (More Red Klister.)

Clothing was fine.  No issues. Wore my 2016 American Birkie ‘Classic” hat and flip-up visor.  Costco light weight gloves. Helly-Hansen light weight long sleeve t-shirt and Brooks top, wind briefs and tights.  Filson wool sox and Madsus boots. On my 2002 vintage Fischer RCS skis and RRS poles.  

Carried my Gerry “Day and a Half” pack that I bought when at SEAL Team ONE.  Waist band kept the weight off my shoulders.  String tie for replacement chest strap worked well.  I did not have any chafing.  (Had major whine factor during the Canadian Birkie). D ½ Pack had what I’d need if I got stuck on the high plateau.  (Focused on ten essentials.) Wind pants, wind breaker, fleece top, Lycra shirt, and poly-pro t-shirt.  Dry hat, sox, and gloves in a zip loc bag.  500ml water—I’d bring a small thermos if this was the “real deal”.   Don’t need to carry an ice cube for ballast.  Zip loc bag with hand & toe warmer packets, lip balm, sun screen, TP, headlamp, etc…

Water bottle butt-pack in front, got in the way, but the bottle was accessible.  Zippered pouch was awkward to get into.  Carried a spare tube of Red Klister, scraper, Clif Bars, GU’s, and TP.  Cell phone, didn’t use it, but the battery was almost dead when I finished. 

I think I paced myself ok.  First laps were fast snow conditions, but I tried to not push it too much. 4th lap was slow, but it was mostly due to two stops to re-wax.  Had to mentally ‘stay in the game’ on the last 2 laps.  Found myself stopping to talk to other skiers.  Gotta keep it going.

Nutrition/hydration:  OK, but I know I started to drag later in the race.  Ate 2 PPJ’s in ¼ chunks.  Drank both 24oz water bottles and my 800ml thermos of hot chocolate/coffee. To do it again, I’ll try to expedite the food stops and get the wax figured out better.  That should take 0:30 off my time. 

Waxing at KSC is always interesting.   I ironed in Chola binder, then red/silver klister.  Still had issues.  LF10 on tips and tails, with a couple passes of the coarse riller, was ok for glide.  Ski speed was ok, but could feel the wax dragging at times.  If I late kicked, it slipped out.  Pay attention to technique!  Especially when tired. Balance, weight transfer, and forward knee drive to get as much glide as you can. Ski flex with additional pack weight was an issue, but not as noticeable with the 3.5Kg Norwegian pack weight, compared to the Canadian Birkie 5.5Kg pack weight. Actually, the Norwegian race USED to be 5.5Kg.  Some years ago, they modified it to the current only 3.5Kg.  The American Birkie does not require a pack.  It is an option in the Canadian race.  

Momentum kids were zooming around the stadium area most times I came through on my laps.  Happy campers!  As I finished, they had just ended their party and were heading home. Nice to have a cheering section at the end! 

I’m ok with my final time of 5:30.  This is in there with my previous US and Canadian Birke times. The American and Norwegian Birkebeiner winners are usually about 3 hours. There is always room for improvement.  

Taking a hot shower, dry clothes, and getting some food afterwards was really nice.  Elizabeth picked me up at the interchange and we went to my folks near Ellensburg. Dad’s 89th birthday party and dinner was a very good evening with family and friends.

Other considerations—I looked at this a test run for what to carry, skiing with the pack, eat/drink, ski-flex, in a ‘no-fail’ situation that did not cost me a huge amount of money.  Maybe next time we’ll get some others who do not want to spend $3,000 to fly to Norway, pay for a car, hotels, restaurants, or 1,000 Kroner entry fees.   

But I didn’t get that ‘FOR REAL” ambiance, either.   

And, it didn’t even rain!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Rune's Birken #2 - Top 25!

When you're on a roll, you just keep going, and that's how Rune's winter is going.  After his age-group win at the American Birkie, he headed across the pond to tackle the Norwegian version.  How did that go?  Like this!  Many thanks, Rune, for sending us your story so we can imagine what it would be like to ski like that, and thanks to Augustina also, for the photos, so we can imagine we are there.
Norwegian Birkebeiner 2018 
The weather forecast a few days before the race showed the Norwegian archipelago Svalbard, close to the North Pole, right around 0 degrees Celsius and Rena, the start of the Norwegian Birkebeiner, at -22 C (-9F); go figure!  Having done the American Birkie in similar temperatures only a month ago, I thought this wasn’t going to be so bad.  Wrong!  I swear, -22 C at Rena feels way colder than -22 C in Wisconsin.   Maybe because Wisconsin is always cold while the temps at the Norwegian Birkie typically are a few degrees +/- 0 C…?  With the temperature that low at the start, and a forecast of temps staying below -15 C throughout the course at least until noon, it really puts clothing and day of race routines to a test.  Layers and layers, topped with my wonderful Bergans down jacket, and I was actually quite warm by the time I had finished the 20-minute walk from the farm house I stayed at to the start area.  A quick test of the skis revealed a solid kick.  This year, I was fortunate to be able to have Zach Caldwell (Caldwell Sports) wax my skis.  After Zach waxed my skis at the Worlds in January, I have complete confidence in him and probably would have skied on klister if he had said to do so (or maybe not).  After I picked up my skis the day before the race, all waxed and ready to go, I must admit I got a bit of a panic attack after Zach called me later in the day asking me to scrape off all the kick wax he had applied.  This is how attentive to details Zach is; he waxed his own skis identical, then tested later in the day and found that the kick wax application was way too thick and would drag too much.  “Scrape it off and apply one layer of Monkey cold (never heard of the wax before) and you will kick up every hill.”  So I did and, as always, Zach was spot on in his prediction.  
Based on my American Birkie result, I qualified for Wave 2, barely with a 1-minute margin.  With 400 skiers in the wave and 8 tracks out of the start, it gets really tight and the tempo the first 10 k or so is very uneven, with a serious sling shot effect in the back of the group.  This can be very exhausting, constantly trying to speed up on the flatter sections only to come to a complete stop when double polers can barely make it up some of the hills.  Knowing that it would take longer than normal to even get your core temp back to normal, let alone get warmed up, I decided to radically change my start strategy.  I lined up at the very back of the group and as the start gun went off, I was still putting my jacket in my back pack and stepped aside so that the 100 Women Elite 2 starting with us could pass.  Then I hung around the start for another few minutes before finally starting my race, which officially starts when you cross the mat and not when the gun goes off.  The strategy worked out perfectly.  I was able to settle into a steady pace, enjoying open tracks and passing skiers as the group sorted itself out and the slower skiers fell behind.   After 12k and 550M of climb, we are at the top of the first mountain. The race was going perfectly with a great kick, a steady pace, and constantly passing groups of wave 2 skiers.  It was very motivating knowing that not only did I pass skiers, but I also knew that I was already 3 minutes or so ahead of the ones I passed, due to my “later” start time.  The 2nd part of the ski equation is the glide and I was delighted to find that my glide was as good as or better than the skiers around me as we did the first long descent.  Zach scored!  Full of confidence and motivation, I skied as hard as I could the rest of the course, never really having any weak spots.  Mountain #3, Midtfjellet, is a tough one with some of the steepest climbs.  I was certainly tired but as long as I was still passing skiers, I knew things were going well. 
I finished the race in 3:20:00, which was good enough for a 21st place in my age group (800+ skiers).  Last year I was 52nd in my age group and thought that, with great skis and a great day, I may be able to break top 25 so I was very happy about reaching the goal of top 25.  A total of 8,800 skiers completed the race and I placed 415th overall.  When Petter Northug can’t even break into the top 100, I am good with 415th!       

The next day, Rune and Augustina went out for a little ski in the winter wonderland that is Norway.  Sigh ...

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Rune and Birkie #1 for 2018

Rune and Augustina are in the snow heaven that is Norway right now, where he double poled the HalvBirken last weekend and came in 8th in his age group, feeling strong and fit, before he heads to the Big Daddy Birken next weekend.

But first, he had a little warm-up ski at the American Birkie, where he not only demolished his own age group, but also put some serious kick-ass on the 40-somethings!  Here is his story:

This year, the organizers were about as lucky as possible, as opposed to last year’s rain-out and ultimate cancellation.  6” of show 5 days prior to the race and another 6” 2 days before, with cold temperatures throughout, made for fabulous conditions and firm tracks.  Although the -9F at start was about 20F below predicted temp -- didn’t see that one coming!  
While the skate field has its steady participation of top level European racers as well as a number of US top guns, one never really knows what to expect in the classic field, and I have learned to not get too caught up in how I fare out of the gate.  Two years ago I shot out to a top 5 spot relatively easily.  This year there was a cluster of about a dozen skiers shooting out at a much higher speed than the next group of another dozen skiers or so; I quickly realized that the 2nd group was more my speed and settled into a relatively comfortable speed within the group.  Most years, I have kind of been in between the top guys and the rest and skied quite a bit of the race by myself.  Skiing in a pack of 10 – 12 skiers was a little different than I was used to and, instead of going as hard as I could at all times, I was finding myself skiing near the front but never leading the pack and focusing on just staying at a steady rhythm, figuring that this group will dissolve on its own sooner or later.  And that is just what happened.  Some skiers took a little more time at the feed station at OO than others and didn’t have the speed to catch up with the group after the feed, so soon we were down to about 6 skiers who stayed together until Mosquito Brooks, a mostly flat stretch with lots of double pole and great opportunity to draft.  Most of the work in the front was done by a young kid who never seemed to mind that he had half a dozen to a dozen skiers riding on his tails.  Good for him, I thought; hopefully he saves some for the last hills. 
Some of the most substantial climbs at the Classic Birkie actually come at the end, and staying in the pack conserving energy paid off big time.  I was able to hold a steady pace up the hills, now skiing mostly outside the track since the kick wax was starting to wear off a little and the temperatures were reaching a balmy 20F or something like that.  Shortly after Bitch Hill (the hill seems so innocent when training but during the race, it deserves its name!), I realized that I had a gap behind me and from there on, it was just to give it all in the last few hills to get as much of a gap as possible before getting onto the flat at the end.  I kind of felt sorry for the kid who did all the work for us, but such is life at the Birkie trail; years of experience pay off and he might think differently about pulling the entire race next time.  By the time I got to the lake, no one was in sight behind and it was just to let the arms go all out the last 3 K.  I finished in 12th overall, won my age group as well as every group from 40 years and up, and was quite happy with the race and how the skis performed.  
As I am writing this, I am sitting in a cabin in Lillehammer, Norway: tons of snow, miles upon miles of groomed trails and temps in the teens to lower 20s.  The conditions for the Norwegian Birkie are looking spectacular and I am excited about the upcoming race!
Now for some serious eye candy from snow heaven, I mean, Norway.  Augustina and I want to live in that cabin forever and eat Norwegian pastries every day!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Birkie Story: A Success!

Three cheers for middle-of-the-pack skier Carol Anway!  It's always cool to read the stories of racers finishing on top of the leaderboard, but there is a special satisfaction in reading the story of someone like Carol, who had two hip replacements in 2016, came back with a year of solid thoughtful training, and -- spoiler alert! -- set a new personal record at this year's Birkie!  Way to go, Carol, and way to show all of us in the pack how it's done.  And just to prove it wasn't a fluke, she headed to Hyak today and set another personal best on the Iron Horse trail!  Here is her story:

I am Dr. Carol Anway, physicist, musician, and proud daughter of Dr. Allen Anway, one of the Spirit of 35 skiers at the Birkebeiner.  I live with my husband, Keith, and daughter in North Bend, WA. I started skate skiing in 2012 and did the Birkie in 2014 and 2015.  Running combined with hip dysplasia led to both hips being replaced in 2016.
Birkebeiner 2018 was all about reclaiming my physical fitness.  My surgeon asked me not to run until a year after the second hip replacement, so I obediently waited to start running until Sept 1, 2017.  This was six months before the big race.  I increased my speed and endurance aggressively, too aggressively, because I developed left thigh pain in December that sharply limited my mileage.

January, I changed over to skate skiing, which did not bother my thigh.  Keith and I talked about it, and decided the strategy was not to hit a particular goal of performance, but simply to maximize physical fitness given all the constraints on my time (such as working full time and being a mom).  I skied on weekends, and during the week, I swam, slid back and forth on the slider board, and hiked up hills.  By the end of January, I could reliably do 25-35 k each day, often in the rain.  In February, I added Friday skiing when possible.

I have never had a formal skiing lesson.  New hips might be an opportunity to learn properly.  I called a coach, Todd, who gave some general skate ski advice on the phone in September.  He had moved back to Vermont and so could not coach me in person.  He recommended other coaches, but they were in the Methow valley, and it was just too far, so I went without.  I found Todd’s general advice quite helpful.  He recommended starting slowly with gentle movements, to learn how to ski again.  Light steps, with relaxed angles.  Less arms on uphill, more arms on flats.  Hands in front on up hills to keep the hill heart rate lower.  

Other skiers proved instructive. One example: There were two friendly gentlemen in blue jackets skiing together at Cabin Creek one Friday.  We were going the same speed on the downhills, flats, and small uphills, but then there was a longer uphill. I dropped to herringbone.  They continued to skate.  And I never saw them again.  A clue!  The next time I went out, I changed to skate up all hills, stopping to breathe if I needed, but really challenging myself. This took six minutes off my 10 k time. 

I experimented with form at the old railway trail at Hyak, trying to make my motion efficient and automatic.  Eventually, I could go the whole way to Stampede Pass Road, 12.4 k, without stopping for any reason, at a super-fast pace, then eat a sandwich, and go back to the start just as fast. My fastest was 25 k in 2:05.  (Note that the Olympians do the whole 50 k Birkie in just over 2 hours, but I do not aspire that high.)

I experimented with breathing.  Flat trails allowed me to breathe with the rhythm of my poles.  Hilly terrain at Cabin Creek (exit 63) required panting on uphills.  The more tired I got, the more I panted continuously.  My lungs are simply not as strong as other people’s, and so I’ve started asking people what they do.  It seems sprints are the answer.  More detailed advice would be helpful.  I figured the rolling hills at Cabin Creek were sprints.  I made gradual improvement.  My best time there was just under one hour for a 10 k icy course.  
Each of the two weekends before the Birkie, I accomplished a total of 105 k spread over three days.  I was consistent in my split times.  The Sunday before the Birkie, I did 40 km at Cabin Creek on nicely groomed new snow (Nick is a genius groomer) with a time of 1:10 for each and every 10 k loop, 4:40 h total (includes sandwiches).

Thursday, Feb 22, I traveled to my parents’ house in Superior, WI.  Friday, Dad (Allen Anway, bib 35004) and I waxed and tested our wax at the Superior Municipal Forest.  Mom made tacos for supper before race day.  We chowed down!

Race day, Saturday Feb 24, 2018, Dad’s friend Mike picked us up at 5:00 am.  We drove to Cable and waited in the warm car in premium parking.  At the exact right time for minimum cold exposure at 0 deg F, we headed up to the little warming house at the start.  The other Spirit of 35 skiers were there.  I think I recognized one of the guys from Cabin Creek. Dad lined up with the other skiers for the National Anthem, and then the gun went off at 8:15, and zoom!  So proud of all of them!

I watched some waves go, wandered around, and then finally shucked my coat into the bag and got in position for wave six, bib 6269. It was 12 deg F, so purple wax was fine.  Gun start at 9:55. Keith and I had calculated that I was a pretty good match in speed for the wave, and so I decided to be in the middle rather than near the back of the pack.  This turned out to be a mistake.  I did no passing for the first 3 k.  I was only passed by others, which pissed me off. The snow was slow and terrible, mashed potatoes 2-3 inches deep.  Finally, the wave seven skiers were starting to pass, and that REALLY pissed me off.  I’m sure I made a strong personal start given the conditions, because I was really working hard to stick with the ones passing me. 

After the first feed station, the skiers strung out more, and I got more into the rhythm of the snow.  It was slow, but I learned to be ruthless in choosing the less puffy areas of the trail, and to lift my knees a little higher to avoid stumbling.  I dropped to herringbone technique up the steeper hills, because there was no glide.  Finally, near High Point, I admitted to a skier near me that I was finding it slow going, and she used the same cuss words I had been thinking about to describe the conditions, so that made me feel better.  It was 28-30 deg F.  The Birkie registered my average speed in the first two sections as a puny 4.3 mph.

I loved the feed stations.  I loved the volunteers.  I loved my sandwiches, and the orange sections spoke to me at a level I haven’t encountered for a long time.  I knew there were seven feed stations, and I counted them as I went.  One surprising pleasure was that I had trained with feeds every 10 k, and the race spacing was closer together, so I was repeatedly surprised by what felt like an early feed. Nice!

At the sign that said 33 km from the end, I remarked to a nearby skier that we were one third of the way through the race.  She exclaimed, “and that’s the worst section!”  She had a special bib for 20+ years, so I commented that she should know, given her many years.  She said, “Yes, I DO know, and it IS the worst!”  Very definite.  Indeed, that point marked an improvement in trail quality and where it became more downhill.

At County Road OO, 27 k from the end, the mashed potatoes snow disappeared!  Instead the base was packed tightly, and I could speed up.  So, I did.  Still panting, but now having more results from the effort.  The Birkie registered my average speed increasing to 5.7 mph.

Up and down hills, everything blurred together.  There was a second hill with snow-mobile people heckling the skiers.  I fell there, but not badly.  That was my only fall.  Mostly I just tucked and went down, nothing fancy.  Mostly I skated up hills, but the steep places I used herringbone without shame. 

At kilometer marking 21 to the end I came to an uphill and saw my Dad!!!  I put on a burst of speed and shouted, “Dad!” Everyone nearby was alert to the activity and interested in the outcome.  I have never caught up with him before, so it was really exciting!  We skied together for a little bit and talked to the people around us.  Then I took off, and there was a feed station around the corner.  Dad was faster than me at the feed station, because of my sandwich habit, and so I had the pleasure of catching up to him again at marker 20.  We again skied together a little bit. It was hard to leave him behind.  Afterwards, even kilometers later, people chatted to me about catching my father on the trail and how many Birkies had he done?  41, wow!  And wasn’t that amazing??  I was pleased that people understood what a treasure he is and treated him so gently.

More feed stations, more miles, more up and down.  There was vodka ski hill, and even though a vodka sounded quite nice, I didn’t want to stop my forward motion long enough to partake.  Bitch hill had a “Jesus Saves” theme to repent of the cuss words we used going up the hill.  

Then Lake Hayward.  Flat.  Gloriously flat.  Automatically I knew what to do because of my work at Hyak.  Boom! I fired up to top speed.  Each step carried me far, with good rhythm and everything.  I amused myself by passing skiers who had passed me in the first five km.  Take that!  The Birkie registered my average speed during that last segment as 6.9 mph.

Then came International Bridge with all its flags.  Skated strongly up the gentle incline of Main Street in Hayward, many cowbells, cheering. Announcer read my name, I waved, more cheers!  And finished!  Personal best at 6:14. I beat my previous personal best by 1:15.  Woot!  Third Birkie finish!  I guess these new hips work just fine.

After changing clothes and eating soup, Mike and I walked downhill to catch a glimpse of Dad on the way up. Twilight deepened. It started snowing.

Finally, there was Dad, skating at an easy pace up the hill. I shouted. He looked tired. I cried.  The announcer read his name over the loud speakers and the crowd roared big approval.  He swayed, his balance uncertain.  I ran ahead and wormed through the “media only” entrance.  Just after he crossed the finish line, I hugged him, and felt like maybe I should go on holding him so he didn’t fall over. Mike carried his gear.  Dad and I walked arm in arm up the hill.  Dad was the last skate skier to finish, but he finished.  Dad’s time was 9:26. His 41st Birkebeiner finish.  Wow! 

(ed. note: for my money, this is the most amazing photo.  This, my friends, is what mental toughness and fortitude look like!  Now back to Carol's story...)

Next morning it was time to help Dad shovel out the new snow.  Our muscles were not happy about this!  But what are you going to do?  It was probably good to get moving.