2022: American Birkebeiner

My primary goal for the 2021 edition involved skiing both the 29 km Kortelopet and the 55 km Birkie on back to back days – as a tangible metric of improved fitness derived from a healthy lifestyle. I got to check that off but owing to the pandemic as well as communal commitments, I had completed the Kortelopet virtually at Swedetown on Thursday and then traveled to complete my maiden Birkie along the official – albeit modified to be an out and back – course in the ABSF trail system on Friday. The primary goal for the 2022 edition remained almost the same as 2021: ski the Korte and the Birkie on back to back days with correct form, terrain-appropriate technique, situation-appropriate strategy, ease and peace. The result would be a tangible metric of regained fitness derived from a healthy-ish lifestyle after a rolled ankle injury in 2021 June significantly impacted how I trained and raced rest of the 2021 Summer and 2021 Fall. It’d also be an opportunity to put the lessons learned over 2021 Fall and 2021-22 Winter thus far into practice on what is unequivocally the grandest stage for cross country skiing in our country.

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2022: Pre-Birkie and Vasaloppet USA

Having skied the lovely trails in and around Mora, MN, three times so far and having experienced the hospitality of the organizers, volunteers and spectators (don’t let me forget to tell you about the soul warming blueberry soup they serve at aid stations), I didn’t need any convincing to sign up for the golden edition of Vasaloppet in 2022. For the past 2-3 years, several experienced members of my nordic skiing family had been encouraging me to do Seeley Hills Classic (SHC) and/or Pre-Birkie (PB) to better handle the Birkie Fever. After checking the schedule of events, SHC was a no go this year (we were hosting the 2022 CCSA Invitational and Great Lakes Division CXC Cup at Michigan Tech Trails on that day). But PB was scheduled for the day before the Vasaloppet. Google Maps again showed that doing both events would amount to approximately the same driving time/distance as doing just the Vasaloppet. So, I made some changes and opted to go for one more of  get two for the price of one deals!

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2022: Wolf Tracks Rendezvous and North End Classic

The Wolf Tracks Rendezvous (WTR) had gone virtual and the North End Classic (NEC) had indeed taken place in a real format in 2021. I had been a 3-time participant of the NEC by 2021 while 2020 was the first time I had even heard about WTR. Both are well-organized events that I have grown to love – because of the caring community of organizers and volunteers, compassionate fellow participants and well-groomed trails in picturesque settings. As my good fortune (or lining up of Nordic Stars) would have it, these two lovely events took place on back to back days in 2022. A bit of Google mapping helped me realize that I could do both events for about the same amount of driving time it’d have taken to do just NEC. And who doesn’t love a get two for the price of one deals?

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2022: SISU Ski Fest

After having skied the virtual edition of this event in 2021 (attempts #1 and #2), I signed up for this year’s edition as soon as the organizers opened up registration. Each winter, this event serves as the first of many mini reunions of my nordic skiing family and provides the first real race atmosphere to put to test newly acquired skills. While this year was no different in those aspects, it had a significantly higher value in light of the pandemic-forced separation and limited opportunities to see my family and hang out with them – on and/or off the race course.

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2021: Indianapolis Half Marathon

I’d be lying if I said an injury resulting from one missed step in the 2021 Blue Mound Trail Run would have taken twenty extra weeks than the two I thought it needed to heal. I’d also be lying if I said the longer path to recovery didn’t bring unexpected but much needed lessons along the way. Most of them were variants of letting go – being my own medical doctor, being a knucklehead and bluntly pushing through obvious physical pain in races, and so on. Some others helped fine tune the Assistant To The (Chief Timer, Race Director, Volunteer Coordinator, and so on) and the guy behind the camera skills at events I had signed up to race. Yet others – myriad of emotions on the faces of people of varying ages and abilities along the course and in the vicinity of finish line – helped reset some forgotten perspectives. Best of them all was … drumroll please … the affirmation that I have a lovely family of supportive friends: none of them made any kind of funny (or negative) remark or gave me a hard time for DNFing (not once but twice – Marquette Marathon and Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon) instead of pushing through the pain!!

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2021: Marquette Marathon (DNF)

When I completed the 2020 Sunday Lake Marathon in October, little did I know that I’d have to wait nearly a full year before getting another opportunity at the marathon distance. The 2021 Milwaukee Marathon I had been training towards from early 2020 December (scheduled for early 2021 April) was postponed to sometime in 2021 October. The ever evolving COVID-19 situation kept me from looking for alternate events to replace the Milwaukee Marathon. Though I had signed up and been training towards the 2021 Whitefish Point Marathon (scheduled for mid June), the marathon deities had other plans and decided that tuning up my Assistant To The Chief Timer and Other Duties As Assigned skills was the priority. Continue reading … “2021: Marquette Marathon (DNF)”

2021: Whitefish Point Marathon (DNS)

The previous training cycle – spanning about 26 weeks from late April through late October of 2020 – wasn’t my first time following a training plan. But it was my first time doing a good number of other things along the way that represented an athlete lifestyle. The training cycle included several virtual events and I was even fortunate enough to be a part of some in-person events … something I didn’t think would happen once the world as we knew of came to a screeching (or screaming) halt due to COVID-19. Looking through the training log and being honest with myself, there were a handful of other things that I needed to do consistently – not only to continue living the athlete lifestyle but also to earn the performance (or result) that I know I was/am capable of. This training cycle – spanning about early December 2020 through early April mid June 2021 – primarily focused on addressing these and see what it’d lead to in performance … should there be an in-person marathon towards the end.

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2021: Back 9 Endurance Run

While I had been a part of 3/8/12-person teams in relay races (lap-based or not) in the past, I had never done a time- and lap-based 12 (or 24) event before. Getting to be a part of it so close to home and doing so in the company of many friends made it very appealing … and started swinging my mind back towards the first edition of the Back 9 Endurance Run held on the premises of the historic Keweenaw Mountain Lodge. To say that I showed up late to this party is an understatement. Many in my family of friends had signed up, been training methodically and spreadsheeted their laps in detail for weeks, if not months … and then there was me, needing a special invitation from the kind-hearted race director to sign up. It was special (and not special) because I had waited until three days after the registration had been closed to make up my mind.

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2021: Syttende Mai Classic

The last time I participated in a real and in-person running race was about two weekends ago – Lake Monona Run in Madison/Monona, WI. As noted in its journal entry, if all (or at least most) had gone according to the plan, I’d have run the Milwaukee Marathon about five weeks ago. Googling for a now defunct event (details later), I found this event as another potential Spring racing opportunity. It too was difficult to pass up – especially since it lined up well with modified Summer marathon training plan. Given the safety measures I and the organizers had put in place, signing up was a no brainer.

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