2017: Great Bear Chase 10k XC Classic Ski

In all seriousness and retrospect, this should have been my fourth ski race/event of the 2016-17 season. But owing to many reasons beyond the scope of this journal entry (read: excuses for not making time to train consistently in any way, shape or form) and with the cancellation of the 2017 American Birkebeiner (I wasn’t prepared for that either), Great Bear Chase became the final and only test of my skiing this season — cumulative (since January 2014) and newly acquired (with each passing season/session — as I said, there wasn’t much of it this season) alike. And the event is a a long-running and well established, managed and reputed one with usual perks — near-zero traveling, sleeping in my own bed couch the night before, and being with dear friends and community members before, during and afterwards.

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2016: Run The Keweenaw, A Festival of Trails

 Each of its three previous editions — 2013, 2014 and 2015 — this festival of trails has gone on to teach quite a bit about myself, our trail systems in Eagle Harbor and Copper Harbor (I am no mountain biker and so, I don’t ride them at all) and the trail running etiquette, and brought me closer to a fairly large number of friends — from around and outside the region — that are competitive while being the kind, cooperative, caring and the very embodiment of the said etiquette.

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2016: Great Bear Chase 10k XC Classic Ski

In all seriousness and retrospect, this should have been my only ski race of the 2015-16 season. For, in all the same seriousness and retrospect, Great Bear Chase has become the final test of my skiing talents each season — cumulative (since January 2014) and newly acquired (with each passing season/session) alike. And it’s a test — a long running and well established, managed and reputed one at that — in my home area that comes with the added benefits of near-zero traveling, sleeping in my own bed couch the night before, and being with dear friends and community members before, during and afterwards.

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2015: Mount Bohemia Trail Running Festival

Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grass and gentians of glacier meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of Nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but Nature’s sources never fail. … The petty discomforts that beset the awkward guest, the unskilled camper, are quickly forgotten, while all that is precious remains. Fears vanish as soon as one is fairly free in the wilderness.

— John Muir, Our National Parks (1901)

It’s not a snowcapped mountain, at least not year-round. Its highest peak, at least on the course, barely reaches 1,500 (yes, fifteen hundred) feet above sea-level with the basecamp stationed less than a thousand feet below the top. And yet this thing is called a mountain? When touching just 2,000 (yes, two thousand) feet has been a Sisyphean task even for the highest peak in the entire state, 1,500 ft doesn’t sound all that bad. Unlike the real mountains elsewhere, this one (with a handful of its siblings/cousins) is right in our own backyard. And quite importantly, it (and each of one its siblings/cousins) offers the same lessons my favorite wilderness prophet talks/writes about in his 1901 book.

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2015: Great Bear Chase 10k Classic XC Ski

The past year since the last edition of this home area event, except for the month of December 2014, has seen me ski at least a few kilometers every month we have had moderate to really good or excellent trail conditions. While signing up for this year’s edition didn’t cost me any brain cell at all, I had neither really put in enough quality base miles simulating the Great Bear Chase course conditions nor had I skied longer than 8k in the weeks/months leading up to retain my initial registration for 25k classic. The decision to drop down to 10k classic still didn’t cost any brain cell nor extra work either — thanks to the handy/magic work of dear friends, Cynthia and Angela.

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2014: Looking back

Much like 2013, life in 2014 too has been great — I still have my dream job and live in a place that I love amidst people with whom caring is more than a 2-way traffic. Thanks in greater part to my friends in and out of this community, and their unexpected and unrewarded acts of kindness, 2014 became my first ever almost full running season. There wouldn’t be an almost in the previous sentence, and the progress towards the end of it would have been much greater had I not procrastinated too much over the first many months (as can be seen from the histogram of monthly mileage).

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2014: Mount Bohemia Trail Running Festival

Following the debacle in mid-July with Great Lakes Endurance folks in relation to the Grand Island Trail Half Marathon, the decision to not participate as a runner in the Porcupine Mountains Trail Half Marathon or any other race organized by the said folks ever again didn’t cost me more than a few brain cells. Contact me in person or in private, if need be, and I will gladly share the details and more importantly, the lessons I learned from the experience.

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2014: NPS Birthday Run 10k

From time immemorial to first week of May 2010, Isle Royale National Park was something that just existed in signs (boats, roadside and in Houghton county airport), in others’ travel journals hidden in the far — and sometimes dark — corners of the internet, in photographs, and often as a figment of my imagination. And one day, in a fine watering hole that a bunch of us frequented with more regularity than the four seasons winter of Yoop, dear friend Jaime asked Nils and myself if we’d be interested in going to The Island as part of the Queen’s crew. I don’t recall neither Nils nor I neither thinking much nor flinching before saying yes (well, it was more like YES!).

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2014: Great Bear Chase 10k Classic XC Ski

Having taken my skiing talents (or lack thereof) to the trails only three times, having already signed up to do the Book Across The Bay (thanks to peer pressure from dear friend, Bryant Weathers), my understanding — in late January — was that I would have made enough time to practice and gained more experience to participate in the Great Bear Chase.

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2014: Book Across The Bay 10k Classic XC Ski

Courtesy of all my blabberings in social media outlets, Bryant Weathers got the wind of me acquiring a new pair of skis and shot off this email on a balmy fine Friday in January. I tried ignoring it for a while but it seemed to have some serious haunting features and just wouldn’t go away. With nearly every skiing mile in my life ahead of me, it wasn’t easy to make the decision — to take my skiing talents to Ashland, Wisconsin, let alone on to the frozen Lake Superior for a 10k.

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