When Wayne and Sheila told me they were going to do the Birkie I hopped on the bandwagon. But it wasn't with reservations. You see 10 years ago I had a nightmare race in Hayward, Wisconsin. For a long time I thought I would never do the Birkie again unless I could avoid starting in Wave #1. Wave #1 is actually the 3rd heat of skiers to start. There is an Elite wave of 200 men that starts the race first, followed 2 minutes later by 50 Elite women then 8 minutes after that the release Wave #1. I say release, because it reminds of that Simpsons quote 'Smithers, release the hounds'. So I signed up for the Birkie, 3 weeks before the big event. But since I hadn't done the Birkie lately, they stuck me in Wave #1 again. Not even a handful of top 20 results in the Keskinada and other 50km races was enough to convince the Birkie officials that I belong in the top 200 starters. Not official letters, nor mathematical justification, nor begging were successful. If I wanted to ski the Birkie again I would have to go through the Wave #1 initiation, AGAIN! What's so bad about Wave #1? Wave #1 makes a mosh pit look like a civilized gathering of intellectuals. There are two very appropriate nicknames for Wave #1 pretty much sum up the problem; 'Freak Show' and 'Testosterone Wave'. There are 1000 skiers in Wave #1, and most believe that they are faster than the Elite men and they are ready to prove it by skiing over top off anyone in their path when the gun goes off. Mix in some skiers that are only doing half the distance, the Birkie's little brother the 25km Korteloppet and you have a frantic start. So there I was waiting, warm-ups off, *near* the front of Wave #1 with 10 minutes to go until the start. Why was I standing there in my racing suit at -21°C so early? Well, this is Wave #1 and it's part of the initiation! To get near the front on the real start line you have to stand in a pen behind the Elite men's and women's pen ready to rush to the starting line the second the Elite women go off. Some people enter the Wave #1 pen 30 minutes before the start just to stand at the front! Basically you sacrifice a warm-up for a position where you don't need to pass 1000 skiers in the first few kilometers of the race. This bit of Wave #1 trivia was lost on me the first time I did the Birkie and trust me a good warm-up doesn't outweigh having to pass 1000 people before the trail gets too narrow. If you don't want to get caught up in the mele in the holding pen, or the start line then you might as well use the porta-potty one last time and give the Wave #1 skiers a 5 minute head start because if you just casually start at the back you'll walk the first 5-10km. So with 10 minutes to kill before I start I try to forget that I'm getting cold and I reviewed my race plan a few more times:
Interesting Reading. . .