The last weekend in February was a big weekend for me. I train and race in cross country skiing, and the culmination of my year is the American Birkibeiner. This is the largest Nordic ski race in North America, stretching 50 kilometers (31miles) from Cable to Hayward. It pulls participants from multiple countries and continents, and we all converge on the small town of Hayward, Wisconsin. Most of the year Hayward sits at a population of ~2,500 people, but the week/weekend of the Birkie, it grows to more than 15,000 people (12,000 racers, and 3000+spectators.)
The most exciting part of my weekend was watching my 3 1/2 year old daughter, Millie, race in her first ski race. It was a very proud moment as a parent to see her being excited about a sport that I love!
This year was my 6th time competing in the race (should have been the 7th but the race was cancelled due to poor snow conditions in 2017.) I currently compete in the “Elite Wave” which features the top 200 finishers from the previous year and up to 50 professionals.
As the race got underway, I found myself at the tail end of the lead pack, which is a good spot for me. As we started through the very hilly terrain, this lead group split into the top professionals and the rest of us “normal” racers. Coming out of a feed station at the 6k mark, my pole was stepped on causing it to break, and subsequently resulting in me skiing with one pole for the next 4k until I was able to get a replacement at an aid station. This caused me to lose about 4-5minutes and multiple places in the race. The replacement pole worked until I got my backup poles at the halfway mark.
Once I had the correct pole, the race was back on. I made up quite a bit of ground on a number of skiers and was able to save a top 100 finish. I ended up 71st out of 3654 racers in my race.
This is my best finish to date. With the knowledge that I lost as much time as I did, I am extra motivated to get back at it for Birkie 2019 and see how I can do without a broken pole mishap.
Until next time, Hayward!