Monday, March 1, 2010
Birkie a Smashing Success
OK runners, you've at least seen cross-country ski racing now because of the Olympic TV coverage, so now maybe you understand what I do and why I do it each winter. Cross-country (also known as Nordic) skiing is a fabulous way to embrace winter. I got into it as an extension of running's endurance aspect way back in the '70s and haven't looked back. The 37th American Birkebeiner was my 30th. That meant I got to wear a coveted gold bib as I traversed the difficult course from Cable to Hayward in northwest Wisconsin. Skiing the Birkie does have some things runners don't have to worry about like proper wax on your skis (glide wax only when you skate), equipment and at least some technique. Other than that, it's a very similar mindset to running a big-time marathon. My race went very well with good pacing, nice glide and better-than-usual climbing on the many hills on this well-known 50K course. Two negatives were a ski pole malfunction that I lived with for eight kilometers until I got a replacement pole at the 33K aid station, and a bad fall at 47K, which resulted in a bruised rib or two. Still, I was smiling at the finish, got interviewed by the local radio station up there and celebrated a lifestyle I chose long ago, which, of course, also includes running. I really do encourage all of you to at least try this sport sometime. It's a blast and has its own circuits of clinics, races etc. The photo is of four locals who finished within four minutes of each other. They are (from left) Rich Scott (a former North Central runner and darned good skier) of Naperville, Chuck Zagozdon of Chicago, a strong cyclist and roller-skier in the offseason, me (golden bib) and David Fyhrie of Wheaton, a great downhill skier as well as XC buff. Obviously, we were happy campers just past the finish line on trucked-in snow in beautiful downtown Hayward. The race was won by an Italian in a record time of 1:56! Wow! Skiers from 19 countries and 47 states participated. It's been called the Boston Marathon of cross-country skiing since the mid-1980s. I wouldn't disagree.