As I sit here in Austria writing the final installment of the countdown, I can barely believe that it is already March, the 2015 Birkie has come to a close, and that I only have three more race series this season. For the “X,Y,Z” edition of the countdown, I decided to talk to fellow Birkie ambassador and 2015 champion Holly Brooks. I hadn’t talked to Holly throughout the entire countdown, and I knew she needed to be included. And she was first across the line, so it only seems fitting that she’s highlighted for the last post. I’d also like to take the next couple sentences to really thank the American Birkebeiner Foundation for having me as an ambassador and supporting me in pursuing my skiing dreams. It truly takes a team, and I couldn’t have had the awesome winter of racing without the foundation, or the foundation’s supporters-you! The ski community continues to be unmatched in its enthusiasm, support, and dedication to the sport and each other. I feel so lucky to have grown from such an incredible group of individuals, and am so honored to be part of this amazing organization. Thanks for reading, and I hope everyone has recovered from the 2015 Birkie and is already looking forward to the 2016 running.
You had a different plan going into this year- skip the “normal” races and pursue the FIS World Marathon Circuit. How has this impacted your training? How did it affect your Birkie preparation?
My training this year hasn’t been as different as I thought it would be actually. The biggest difference is more long threshold sessions and fewer shorter intervals. For marathons you need to be able to go 85% for a couple of hours – but you still need some sprint speed at the end! I wasn’t doing tons of crazy overdistance workouts or 2-3 hour threshold sessions thought. I made sure that I did training I could recover quickly from – so I could keep training!
How did this year’s Birkie compare to previous years? What was the biggest difference?
It was fun to hunt the red FIS Marathon Cup leader’s bib down. In the past I was looking at the Birkie as a stand alone event, the “BIRKIE!” This year I still looked at it as the “BIRKIE” but the Birkie is one of 9 races that I’m trying to score points in. But naturally, it’s the one I wanted to WIN the most!
It was also fun to have some strong international competition out there too – Tatijana being from Estonia, Auerelie from France, and Anja from Germany/USA.
What is your favorite Birkie memory (this year or otherwise)?
Maybe this wasn’t my “favorite” per say but I’ll never forget 2009 laying face down in the snow after I lunged so hard for the finish line I almost burst my groin muscle! I knew that I “lost” by 1-2” but I was savoring the moment in the snow. I couldn’t be too disappointed because I came to race the Birkie as a coach. The 2009 race was pretty much the breakthrough that set the tone for my professional ski racing career including two Olympics!
How does the Birkie compare to other World Loppet marathon races?
First of all, the Birkie is the only FIS Marathon Cup in North America so it’s special for that reason and that reason alone! Thus, it’s the only marathon where English is spoken so it’s really the only race that I have any clue what is going on. I can read the signs, the website makes sense, I can ask questions, etc. While I may look like I know what I’m doing the rest of the time I’m kind of a “deer in the headlights” trying to figure out where the course is, who wil wax my skis, etc, etc.
Each marathon that I’ve been too is a multi-day event, like the Birkie but many of these races have classic one day and skate the next (or vice versa) Some of them have an “ultra” category and many people choose to race both days. Wouldn’t that be fun? A Birkie Century +? Skate on Saturday, then classic on Sunday???!!!!
What is your plan now?
I’m in Poland getting ready to race the Bieg Piastow. Then it’s back to Switzerland for the Engadin. The final FIS Marathon Cup is over a MONTH later, April 11th in Khanty Mansiysk, Russia.
What makes the Birkie special to you?
It was my breakthrough race, it’s the only big Marathon Cup on “home soil” and it’s a huge reunion of friends! Plus the whole “Birkie – Ski, Run, Bike, Live” theme. To me, the Birkie represents a lifestyle and a conscious choice to live each day in a healthy way rather than just a single day in February.
For more on Holly’s 2015 Birkie experience, check out her website: http://hollyskis.blogspot.ch/2015/02/birkie-recap-photo-explosion.html
Thanks Holly, and once again thanks to the Birkie for everything. Ski on!