Who would you bet on to cross the American Birkebeiner finish line first?
- Started first – 35 minute lead over Molly
- Skiing 54k Classic Race, Wave 3 – 4k more than the others
- 4th Birkie
- Classic skier since jr high school days
- Spent a week ago Wednesday in the Emergency Room, scheduled for surgery next week
- Started second – 40 minute lead over Erik
- Skiing 50k Skate Race, Wave 5
- 4th Birkie
- Learned skate skiing 6 years ago, first ski race 5 years ago
- Retired, able to train 7 days/week
- Started last – in the final wave
- Skiing 50k Skate Race, Wave 9
- 1st Birkie
- Led his high school Nordic Ski Team in his Sectional meet
- 4-year hiatus from skiing while attending college in a no-snow zone
.We peeled off from the lodge one-by-one, each heading out to ski our own race. But for me, at least, I knew the others were out there. I spent the race trying to catch Rich, and hoping to stay ahead of Erik. Would I succeed?
First there was all the new snow to overcome. I was in the middle of the pack, but it was already churned up enough to require a lot of extra work to maintain forward momentum. Uphills are always deep with snow in the Birkie, but this was heavy soft snow which bogged down skiers on every incline. Hills are my forte, but I never got to ski one at “my” pace. I was fine with the slower speed on the downhills, however, even if it meant less of a head start on the inevitable uphill that followed.
Aid stations were welcome oases and blessedly frequent. I anxiously sought out the volunteers offering cups of “Energy,” hoping the drink would deliver just that. Fortunately, it usually did and I appreciated the extra boost, brief as it was.
As the kilometers passed, I kept a keen eye on the bib numbers around me. When the classic and skate trails merged at 27k, I found myself in the midst of Wave 3 classic skiers – Rich’s wave. About the same time, I saw the first Wave 9 bib pass me – Erik’s wave. I could be in the vicinity of both family members! It was a welcome diversion to watch for familiar figures.
So, how did it all end? With success for everyone! I crossed the finish line first, and was able to cheer on Rich and Erik finishing in that order. I had my best Birkie ever – not in terms of time, but ranking much higher in my age and gender than ever before. Rich overcame his medical condition, skied a more controlled race than usual and felt good afterwards – a first for him. Erik completed his first Birkie, with a much faster time than Rich and me, and is already planning his training for next year.
We all finished. The order is insignificant.