Over 9,000 skiiers converged on the Hayward/Cable area this past weekend for the 39th annual American Birkiebeiner ski race. The Birkie is the largest ski race in North America. We had 8 members of LPTR doing the full birkie, including 2 skiing their first (Bruce and Jamey). Deb Vomhof has the most finishes, completing her 19th this year, with Robert just 1 back with 18. The full Birkie is a point-to-point course, from the Telemark lodge in Cable to the town of Hayward. Skiiers have a choice of divisions, either the 54K Classic (diagonal stride, 1635 finishers), or the 50K Freestyle (skating, 3738 finishers). Results were:
54K Classic (name, place, time, # finishes)
Brad Birkholz, 860, 4:53:43, 15
Bruce Udell, 992, 5:11:18, 1
Jamey Anderson, 1428, 6:38:33, 1
50K Freestyle (name, place, time, # finishes)
Ron Bero, 967, 3:05:00, 5
Joel Lammers, 978, 3:05:31, 5
Robert Wehner, 1250, 3:14:43, 18
Deb Vomhof, 2610, 4:08:29, 19
Mary Gorski, 2783, 4:16:57, 15
Sunday, February 12, 2012
LPTRunner Robert Wehner's Race Director Report:
What a difference a year can make. Last year runners faced the toughest conditions ever, due to a blizzard the week of the race, resulting in the slowest times and fewest finishers ever. This year, the mid-west has seen very little snowfall and mild temps. The snow packed down on the trails melted enough to leave some bare ground, but most of the course remained ice covered. So with screws on your shoes, runners were looking at fast conditions. And with perfect weather (sunny and a high of 40), it would prove to be a good day to be out on the trails.
Another dramatic difference this year was the number of people who showed up. Since this event has always been a low-key local race, we’ve typically had 70-80 runners. The pre-registration entries indicated that we would have a larger crowd, so by race day I thought we might have 110-120 total. But runners kept arriving until the start, and we ended up having 153 starters (yikes!). Fortunately, out great group of volunteers didn’t blink, and handled everything smoothly.
In the week leading up to the race, warmer temps created changing conditions, and it wasn’t clear if we’d be able to use our standard course. By Friday, enough ice had melted, so our normal 10K loop was a go. This course is a lollipop, with an out-back segment followed by a loop; runners complete this circuit 5 times for the 50K. The best feature of this layout is the ability to see your friends throughout the day, not something you can do in most ultras. The constant smiles and encouragement received are very uplifting.
Leading from start to finish, Zach Bitter made it look easy (maybe it was his track spikes). Even though he was running sub-seven minute pace, he seemed relaxed and comfortable, and established a new course record in 3:33:36. In the women’s race, Christine Crawford won her 4th championship in 4:27:29, good for 9th overall. With the record number of entrants and perfect weather, we had 112 finishers of the 50K (Wow!).
Afterwards, everyone was welcomed back to the finish shelter, where a great post-race buffet was laid out. The sunshine and mild temps lured many back outside to the picnic tables to trade stories of this race and others, and discuss plans for the coming year. So my prediction after last year’s race came true: “Conditions would be better than they were in 2011!” What will they be in 2013? You’ll have to show up on race day to find out.
Robert Wehner, RD