2018: American Birkebeiner Kortelopet 29k XC Classic Ski

Even after a year, it still feels very unfair that Mother Nature chose to reward my utter unpreparedness and punish thousands more that had very diligently trained for nearly a year with unseasonably warmer temperatures (and even rain) in days/weeks leading up to the 2017 Birkie weekend. In hindsight, we (the collective phrase to represent all of us and not just the Royal plural) are quite fortunate that this lack of snow thing happened in 2017 and not in 1206 in Scandinavia. Should that have been the case, as one unknown racer put it in 2017, the Prince couldn’t have been saved, and we wouldn’t have the event in 2017 … or in any other year.

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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: 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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2016: American Birkebeiner Prince Haakon 12k XC Classic Ski

Until about two years or so ago, Birkie was something I couldn’t care less about. So much so that I thought and truly believed that Birkie was a real physical town somewhere in Wisconsin. And I even tried looking for a sign to this town on my way to Red Wing, Minnesota, to participate in the 2014 Ragnar Relay Great River, and I don’t remember being disappointed at my inability to find it.

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2016: Noquemanon 12k XC Classic Ski

About a week had passed by since my maiden attempt at skiing and dear friend Carrie suggested that I should consider partaking in one of the events at the Noquemanon Ski Marathon (referred to hereafter as just Noque — somewhat for the purposes of brevity but mostly to sound cool). The aforementioned maiden ski attempt had taken over an hour to cover less than one mile on relatively flat trails. More so than skiing, it was a battle between yours truly and formidable laws of gravity and friction that the latter two won in a merciless beatdown. Given the sheer lack of information, expertise and/or experience, the chances of me surviving the wild and presumably treacherous Noque trails let alone making it out alive were very very slim … if not non-existent. So, it didn’t happen in 2014.

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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: 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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