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
The days before the event were spent, at least in part, in making myself a portable ski rack. By the power bestowed upon me by Tim and Catherine, (and their care package that included a complete set of Milwaukee Tool) and by the parts purchased from dear friends in our own 41 Lumber, the whole experience cost me only one sixth that of a commercial/branded one. I drilled 30 (yes, thirty) extra holes than necessary but it came with the all the features I was looking for! I think it came out well, if I say so myself, and it has been doing its intended job mighty fine.
Mark, friend of our community from Madison (Wisconsin), came up to participate in this event as well. He not only brought along his expansive (and probably expensive too) waxing kit but also was kind enough to wax my skis … TWICE. Pre-race festivities included testing the trail conditions with Mark (which, for me, lasted about 0.50 miles), a hearty home-cooked meal with friends, and a good night’s sleep. The night before the race was cold and the race day was expected to be colder. On race day morning, apparently Mark, the pro, had been going through a similar mental debate as yours truly, the novice: how many layers to wear and if one was going to be sufficient. Then came the unmistakable words of advice — that he gave to himself and kindly shared it with me.
Don’t be an idiot
About 3 km into the course, I came to pass a kid many (I mean, MANY) years younger than I was (his dad/guardian was with him too). I tried making a small talk with the said kid and complementing on his effort but he wouldn’t respond … not in words, at least (neither did the dad/guardian either). His downhill skills were much better than mine but my uphill skills turned out to be much better than his. But every time I passed him, he’d come raging from behind trying to pass me. Not wanting to be served a slice of humble pie by this kid, I decided to make a push with all that I had and didn’t have, and put all my pre-race intentions to treat this event as a FUN activity on hold.
Overall I only fell a record FIVE times and finished just 11 minutes outside of my PR for this distance! Yes, I beat a kid that was many many years younger than me. Had the kid (and his dad/guardian) been responsive to my positive remarks, I would have happily skied reminder of the distance with them and even might have let them finish ahead of me. But they chose to not give me an opportunity to do so. My attempts to escape the humble pie turned out to be just an effort to delay the inevitable. A little after crossing the finish line and making my way to the car, I ran into a dear friend from the community and he stopped me to tell something — serving me not just a slice but an entire humble pie!
Thanks be to
the rejections and opportunities life has brought my way, event folks (organizers, sponsors, volunteers, timers, law enforcement officials, photographers, fellow participants and spectators), and the family of good friends in and outside of my community for all the unexpected, undeserved and unrewarded acts of constant encouragement as well as offerings of constructive criticism to improve myself as an athlete and a person. I am eternally grateful to all those who let me train with them, who shared their invaluable tips with me, who helped keep my mind, body and soul in good health, who helped me stay the course during the training cycle, who continued to teach me the value of work-life balance, and who cheered me on from home or along the course.