I guess the first thing would be to get some lessons to help me with my technique. Given how I felt at the end of the race, I definitely think technique is slowing me down more than my engine. I mean I was passing people that looked like they had great technique, but they were exhausted. One guy in particular looked really smooth. He kept pulling away from me but I seemed to catch him on the hills or at the aid stations, due to the traffic. Towards the end of the race I thought for sure that he dropped me. However, I was surprised to catch and pass him on the lake.
I think simply replacing an easy run with an easy roller ski once a week will help too. And then once the fall marathon season has passed, I can increase that frequency until we have snow.
As for specific training ideas, one would be to take what I know about marathoning and apply it to skiing. I’m thinking something as simple as MP skis and tempo workouts.
I always tried to end my long ski sessions by including some hills towards the end. I think that really helped prepare me for the Birkie. However, the race does finish by crossing Lake Hayward for the last 2K. So throwing in a hard tempo effort or two at the end of those long skis would probably pay dividends on race day. I’d say doing the City of Lakes Loppet race also helps with that because it finishes by crossing a bunch of lakes.
One other technique that I could work on too is the Herringbone. I didn’t use it in training much, but when some of the Birkie hills get congested and the snow is like mashed potatoes, then the Herringbone seemed to work best.
As far as strategy goes, I’d probably get to the start earlier and make sure I was near the front of my wave and then try to get out hard. Given I had no idea what I was getting into, I went out conservatively. The problem with that strategy is that you use more energy trying to get around people when the course narrows or you just get stuck behind them on the hills. I think getting out hard and then settling in would be a better strategy.
I’m sure I’ll come up with more ideas, but these are what come to mind right away.
Quote of the Day;
“Skiing down Main Street was a highlight of my life--looking back across the trail and the 51km, I knew I had tamed both the Birkie trail and my own personal demons; it was truly a wonderful moment.” – Martin Gibbs