American Birkebeiner February 20, 2016
Text by Robert Palliser
It has been a difficult winter so far with three consecutive race cancellations and some other races shortened. The weather was less than cooperative again the day before the Birkie with above freezing temperatures and significant rainfall. The overnight temperature barely got to 0C. Still the Birkie trail was in surprisingly good condition. A little soft on top but with a firm base. The only really wet part of the course was crossing the lake in the last few kilometers.
The Birkie runs all major events on the same day, the 50k main race and the 24k Korteloppet. Both events are offered in classic or skating technique. The classic and skating trails are completely separate for the first 24k. The start procedure requires each wave of skiers to pass through a series of 3 pens only putting skis on in the last pen. Start waves are separate for classic and skating.
There was plenty of opportunity for skiers to get food and drink before, during and after the race. Hot cocoa and energy bars were offered in the warming tent at the start area. Eight aid stations along the course were well staffed with enthusiastic volunteers offering sport drink, energy gels, water, bananas, orange slices and cookies. At the finish zone there was more sport drink, energy bars and chocolate milk. This latter item really seems to aid recovery.
After the finish zone there was a warm changing area but unfortunately no showers available. A food tent provided a bowl of soup, bread, bananas and cookies.
In summary, a well organised and enjoyable event that has definitely improved the total package from previous years.