My journey began in 1986 when I joined my high school Nordic team. I remember hearing about the Birkebeiner that year and thinking, "That would be something!" The seed was planted.
The next 25 years presented me with college, kids, career...and roughly 60 additional pounds. Who would have thought this was the fertile soil for a seed to germinate!? Sometime in 2010, I learned of a colleague who regularly skied the Birkie. Sometime in 2011, I asked him if he had time for lunch. And sometime later that afternoon, I registered for the Birkie Skate!
All I needed now was ski's, a place to stay, conditioning and a little snow to practice...that's it! In other words, a small miracle to prepare myself by February 25th. ...I must have invoked the 'Birkie Spirit'.
Three days after registering, I shared news of my commitment with a colleague, Dan. His face lit up as he told me he had done the Birkie the past 11 years! Furthermore, he asked if I would be interested in joining him and his friends. I know had a ride, accommodations, and some training partners!
My second encounter with the 'spirit' was at the Gear West fall sale. I was greeted by Caitlin Gregg upon entering the store. The next two hours would be the best purchasing experience I've ever had. After a 25 year hiatus from the sport, their expertise was essential. (Thank you Gear West and all the experts who assisted me that day!!)
The next ‘gift’ remained a mystery until I saw the sign on the Birkie trail reading; "Elevation 1700 feet". Due to the lack of snow in the Twin Cities, most of my training took place at Hyland and Afton alpine ski hills. As a result, I was prepared for the initial 8 miles of uphill climb!
Finally, February 25th couldn't have been a more beautiful day. I finished the race in 3 hours and 45 minutes...better than I expected for sure!
But the 'spirit' still had more to give! Dazed and confused, I somehow stumbled into the employee entrance of the food tent. I was quickly greeted by one of the volunteers who said, "I'm sorry, this is not an entrance" But my deep (empty) stare into the depth of her soul was enough to quickly adjust the outcome. Her next words were, "Can I get you some soup, ...or real food?", to which I replied, "Soup sounds like real food." Before I left the tent, the ‘Birkie Spirit’ embodied in this volunteer had brought me roles, two bowls a soup and a beer. (I will never forget you.)
Upon leaving the food tent, I was discovered by one of my training buddies, Jed, who escorted me to the Moccasin for a post Birkie celebration.
If you are considering the Birkie for the first time, sign up, and trust in the 'Birkie Spirit'