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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2018: Noquemanon 24k XC Classic Ski

In all honesty and fairness, participating in this event was a very distant thought when the year started. Unlike 2017, I have been making a decent amount of progress towards the upcoming Kortelopet as part of the Birkie festivities. Progress, to be fair and honest, has so far been only about improving the technique – especially having to make a right turn while going down a slope.  To be fair and honest, I did want to improve the distance (per session or attempt) as well but just hadn’t made enough time (or had made time for excuses, as my lovely Lombardian friends would say).

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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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2017: American Birkebeiner Kortelopet 29k XC Classic Ski

 The 2016 edition of the Prince Haakon 12k served as my gateway to the American Birkebeiner festivities marked by various variants of the #BirkieFever. Hoping to move up a rung and partake in the 29k Kortelopet in 2017 was probably a residual effect of this #BirkieFever thing. With grandiose plans of putting in dedicated training hours throughout rest of 2016 as well as through 2016-17 winter, I did sign up as soon as the registration opened up in May 2016.

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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: 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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