Monday, February 28, 2011

Birkie Fever

It seems as though each new year brings along a new hobby.  This past year my sweet friend Kara introduced me to the winter sport of skate skiing.   We decided early on that we would train for the American Birkebeiner.  But in conjunction to this amazing athletic feat we would also knit full Nordic ensembles. (more pictures to come). I don’t know which task was more motivating for me?  But I am proud to say I finished both! 

Race day was both exhilarating and nerve racking at the same time.  At 8:30AM the temperature was lingering at -1.  At 9:25, I watched Kara as she sped off in wave 6.  Half an hour later I found myself on the tail end of wave 9 waiting for the signal indicating it was time for me to begin my 50KM trek.  With temperatures never exceeding single digits, I spent the next 5 hours and 54 minutes skating my way through the rolling woods of beautiful Wisconsin.    

Earlier in the year I had completed the City of Lakes Lopet.  Coming in 16th from last, I skied a majority of the course in solitude and finished half an hour before they started tearing down.  Kara, reassured me that the Birkie would be different.  She was right.  I found myself among skiers of all ages and abilities.  Every now and then I passed a purple bib, indicating that the wearer had completed 20-29 Birkies.  I also came upon a rare red bib, meaning that this person was a Founder of the Birkie, an original Birkie Skier. 

I had been told that there is one spectacular hill coined "bitch hill"  Every year a crowd of snowmobiling, beer drinkin'  Wisconsonites set up camp to witness novice skiers taking a tumble down one of the most brutal downhills of the entire course.  If you do fall they may rate you're demise with a 9.6 out of 10.  As I approached the line of rowdy spectators my stomach literally dropped, but then I thought  to myself, "What's the worse that can happen?  I fall and only get a 5?"  Bracing myself I eased around the corner; once clear, I was met with cheers and "Atta girl" shout outs from the crowd.

There were many other groups with the Birkie Fever braving the single digit weather to cheer us on.  I passed a dance party, a drum party, a beer party, a brat party and a "Birkie gras" party, which left each skier with a lovely strand of shiny Mardi Gras beads.  Mine were purple.  It was a sign. I had to finish. 

Each rest stop I looked forward to my cup of warm Gatorade. The last pit stop was handing out Oreos and I am not ashamed to confess that I grabbed 4 and ate each one in a single munch.

By kilometer 45 I thought to myself, "You can do it, you can do anything for 5 kilometers"  With one kilometer to go I could here the bells ringing from the finish line.  With half a kilometer left, I was turning up main street and skating down the snow filled, spectator lined street.  I kept my eyes peeled for Kara and my friends who had come to cheer me on.  I spotted my friend Eliz first as she frantically waved my hand knit Norwegian sweater.  As I passed the finish line shivering I thought to myself, "Ok snow, you can melt now.  I have done what I came to do."

Skis waiting outside while their owners warm up inside.
My sweet friend, Kara, on the bus wearing her hand knit Nordic hat.
Me, waiting for my wave to start wearing my hand knit Nordic hat and scarf.
Each wave involves up to 1000 skiers.  This is my view from the back of wave 9.

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