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: Great Bear Chase

Being a hometown event and the last officially timed nordic skiing race for each winter, this was an event that I wouldn’t miss – pandemic or not. The organizing committee did an excellent job of staying ahead of the game as well as being open, honest and frequent in their communication leading up to the event. They even included a free virtual option – do your chosen distance from anywhere and consider making a donation to the trail system. Mother Nature threw a curve ball or two as we got closer to the event. But the Swedetown Trail System groomers rose to the occasion, worked their tails off with what Mothership provided and produced the best course they could!

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2021: North End Classic

Given the ongoing global pandemic (COVID-19), this was an event neither I nor the organizing body was sure would take place. But the North End Ski Club, the parent organization, did a fantastic job of complying with guidelines from health departments, reducing the field size, and put on a successfully safe event for parties involved. Once registered (courtesy of a timely tip from Maureen), traveling to be a part of this event – that I have come to love because of the people associated with it and the idyllic setting of its course – was a no brainer.

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2021: American Birkebeiner

While fully immersed in the weekend long festivities last year in Wisconsin’s Northwoods and with #BirkieFever running pretty high, I made up a goal: to participate in both the Kortelopet (on Friday, 29 km) and Birkebeiner (on Saturday, 55 km) in 2021. The very real and not so spectacular #BirkieHangover that lasted a full week or more after returning home did nothing to change that audacious goal. Part of the motivation came from wanting to experience a wave #1 start (hence the Korte) and start the Birchlegger journey (hence the Birkie). The rest came from needing to maintain and improve my healthy lifestyle. The ability to complete the combination on back to back days reasonably well would be one tangible metric of improved fitness derived from a healthy lifestyle.

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2021: Vasaloppet USA

Less than a week ago, the organizers of the Spring Marathon I had been training towards sent a note that the event was postponed and could likely take place in October instead of early April. I didn’t want to spend time looking for an alternate marathon for Spring and continue training only to have my hopes dashed again. Getting my hopes dashed wasn’t new to me. But In light what I have come to learn about annual training cycles for longer distance events with time-specific goals, it was the stress my body would go through as a result of marathon-specific workouts that bothered me more. So, I put the marathon training and running on the back burner for the time being and decided to focus entirely on cross country skiing until the winter (or at least grooming) ended in our region. Familiarity with this event, its people and the course from prior participation made it relatively easier to sign up, travel and be a part of it.

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