I am so lucky to be surrounded by so many amazing people! This weekends win at the Birkie was a huge accomplishment and a level of result that I have been working towards. Crossing the line Saturday was the first time in my life where I threw up my hands and screamed in excitement! Taking the win, having the confidence to lead the last 800 meters of the race, and to pull it all off was an incredible feeling.
To top off all of my excitement at the line was seeing Lex Trienens and Tyler Kornfields faces light up when they realized I had taken the win. Lex was last years top American and by no means would his 17th place finish this year be satisfying to him. BUT within seconds of him crossing the line he had his skis off and ran over to give me the biggest hug of my life! Tyler soon followed to share the same kind of excitement. In addition, it was awesome to share the podium with fellow American, Caitlin Gregg- making it a double American Win!
All day I received this kind of sincere congratulations. Kikkan Randall who is used to winning World Cups saw that I was getting cold doing my interviews minutes after my race. She brought me my dry clothes bag without anyone asking. The Birkie represents the great ski community we have and why cross-country skiing is one of the best sports out there!
The pace went out steady during the first 5km, which decreased the lead pack to just 20 men. The course is very rolling and I just skied as efficiently as possible throughout the race. There were a few accelerations between 10km-45km, but none of them stuck and our lead group would regather as the pace would slow back down. Around the 43km-45km marker the pace got challenging as a Frenchmen took charge and broke the mens pack.
After a steady climb skiing in maybe 6th or 7th with the Frenchmen about a 100 meters ahead and gaining I decided I needed to close that gap. I moved into second and started the chase. I caught the leader over the next few minutes and I had hoped he would continue his effort all the way to the lake. As expected he slowed down and I wasn’t interested in leading at that point because five others skiers were right on our heels. We regrouped and skied last 5km of the race as a pack of seven.
As we neared the 1km until the finish mark I started to move towards the front. As I got to the front I held as relaxed of a pace as I could, but still while maintaining my position at the front. As we came off the lake with 700 meters to the finish I started my kick and gave it everything I had until the line. Main Street was so loud! Sprinting down Main Street was pure muscle memory and adrenaline cause my body felt numb with the excitement produced by the amazing spectators in Hayward.
A cool video of the race highlights can be found here: https://vimeo.com/156182805
A lot went into this weeks win. I had excellent skis provided to me by Rossignol. The Rossignol reps where out testing skis with a headlamp on the morning of the race after only getting a couple hours sleep Friday night. A huge thanks to Rossignol, Exel Poles, Bliz Eyewear, Toko Gloves, and the APU Nordic Ski Center. It was also blast getting to meet the Louis family and all their friends while they hosted me for the week in Wisconsin- thanks for your support!