Birkie two weekends ago, things changed and changed in a hurry. The last of the officially timed ski event for 2018-19 winter season, being held in our very own backyard in the good company many of my wonderful friends, sufficient knowledge of the Swedetown Trail System and its terrain gathered over the past 3-4 seasons with help from many said friends – to an extent that I feel at home on every loop and not just when I see the final stretch to the finish line, an opportunity rub shoulders with the elites, and a peroration for Pat Szubielak as he embarks on retirement a second time … drove the said change.
140 km base training [for a ~30 km event] seems low … remarked Jan in the aftermath of 2018 Birkie festivities. Consciously work on your downhills and turns … suggested another Jan a month or so later in Washington, DC, during the 2018 Spring Meeting of CASC. How much base training would have been sufficient? … I inquired the encyclopediac minds in and around our community. Deciphering their collective answer, though it led me down an entirely new rabbit hole of time-based training, hinted towards a training plan that included some long/long-ish outings. Coupling that with the sneak peak I got into Jessie Diggins‘ annual training plan, courtesy of Team USA’s Olympic Coach of the Games, I settled on putting in at least 300 km of base training ahead of the 2019 Birkie weekend.
Alice had not only won the 58 km freestyle edition in 2017 Vasaloppet USA in Mora, MN, but had gone on to be the first US female to complete the 90 km edition in 2018 Vasaloppet in Mora, Sweden. She believed that I was good enough to complete the 42 km Classic. So, I believed in her belief and signed up for the 2019 edition.
SC14 in New Orleans, when I accidentally learned that many nerdy/geeky members of my Supercomputing (SC) / High-Performance Computing (HPC) family are avid runners/athletes, it has become a practice to look for and participate in organized athletic events in conference locations. It adds a bit more spice to and with an opportunity run with and learn from some of them, helps me extract more value from what would otherwise be a purely academic trip punctuated with delicious pit stops. Supercomputing (SC18) in Dallas, TX, was no different. As the conference date drew closer, I started searching for Dallas running races in November and found a flat-coursed event – Trinity River Run Half Marathon – outside of the conference schedule. After some trepidation (it wasn’t an inexpensive endeavor) and doing some running mathematics (training plan was calling for 16 LSD miles), I bit the bullet and signed up for the half marathon.
Great Turtle Trail Run Half Marathon was one of those events that got on my bucket list during the early formative years of my running … like 5 or so years ago. Around those days, I had wanted to do every half marathon within 6-8 hours of Houghton, if not anywhere and everywhere. I let life get in the way and I put this event on the backburner of bucket list items. Then again, the stove in those days had so many backburners that it was too easy to forget what I had on them … and needless to say, I forgot all about it. That is, until a week or so ago when Stephen Eles brought it up in a conversation, explained the course profile and expected low temperature and encouraged me to sign up!
Marquette, MI and Madison, WI, but without a formal training plan. Back then and until recently, I was basically hopping from one event to the next using the performance in one as the baseline for the next. Such an approach worked pretty well in the first few years of getting into running because there was a LOT of room for improvement – so much so that anything and everything I tried, small or big, often led to newer personal best times.
my utter unpreparedness and punish thousands more that had very diligently trained for nearly a year with unseasonably warmer temperatures (and even rain) in days/weeks leading up to the 2017 Birkie weekend. In hindsight, we (the collective phrase to represent all of us and not just the Royal plural) are quite fortunate that this lack of snow thing happened in 2017 and not in 1206 in Scandinavia. Should that have been the case, as one unknown racer put it in 2017, the Prince couldn’t have been saved, and we wouldn’t have the event in 2017 … or in any other year.
In all honesty and fairness, participating in this event was a very distant thought when the year started. Unlike 2017, I have been making a decent amount of progress towards the upcoming Kortelopet as part of the Birkie festivities. Progress, to be fair and honest, has so far been only about improving the technique – especially having to make a right turn while going down a slope. To be fair and honest, I did want to improve the distance (per session or attempt) as well but just hadn’t made enough time (or had made time for excuses, as my lovely Lombardian friends would say).
2015 and 2016 editions. And the quest (read: want) for the final piece ensured I at least signed up, and would find ways to complete it given my very limited training.
2017 American Birkebeiner (I wasn’t prepared for that either), Great Bear Chase became the final and only test of my skiing this season — cumulative (since January 2014) and newly acquired (with each passing season/session — as I said, there wasn’t much of it this season) alike. And the event is a a long-running and well established, managed and reputed one with usual perks — near-zero traveling, sleeping in my own
Running events for the most part are solo endeavors — runner against the clock, runner against an older version of her/himself, and occasionally, one runner against another — irrespective of whether another runner knows about it or not. Relay events of the running kind have a knack for blending the individualist aspect with the concept of a team. Though the very reason I took to running many moons ago was to move away from team sports, there’s a part of me that enjoys the team concept every once in a while, necessary to instill a sense of accountability: that I need to do my part, and have the confidence that others on the team will do theirs. Being the runt of the litter when it comes to running, there is never a doubt about my teammates and the onus is always on me.
my maiden marathon attempt in its 2015 edition and not so fond memories of a squandered opportunity 300 some miles south a couple months later were still pretty fresh when I signed up for the 2016 edition of the Marquette Marathon. With this being the only chosen Marathon in 2016, all my eggs were in one basket so to say, and hope was that I would actually follow a training regiment to improve my PR. Maybe even bring it under the four hour mark.
Hancock Canal Run signals the completion of two full years since I took to running half marathon distance and marks the beginning of a new year (#4). Reasons to participate in this event haven’t really changed over these years: a very well organized and attended race in my own backyard, the potential to see and be with a lot of friendly faces from the awesome community I am so fortunate to live in and a chance to sleep in my own couch the night before, and show just about everyone in this community that has ever helped me run (better) that their investment in me wasn’t a wasted effort.
2013, 2014 and 2015 — this festival of trails has gone on to teach quite a bit about myself, our trail systems in Eagle Harbor and Copper Harbor (I am no mountain biker and so, I don’t ride them at all) and the trail running etiquette, and brought me closer to a fairly large number of friends — from around and outside the region — that are competitive while being the kind, cooperative, caring and the very embodiment of the said etiquette.
Great Bear Chase has become the final test of my skiing talents each season — cumulative (since January 2014) and newly acquired (with each passing season/session) alike. And it’s a test — a long running and well established, managed and reputed one at that — in my home area that comes with the added benefits of near-zero traveling, sleeping in my own