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    8-5-2015 7-21-00 PM

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American Birkiebiener race report– a marathon on skis

Information about the SSSMST Five Seasons Indoor Cycling Series is here.

In this image from downwindsports.com, the elite men's wave starts the Birkie

Spin – Second Sole’s Mike Schaefer is a skier. I think when you’re born in Wisconsin, that’s what you do in the winter when you’re not hunting or ice fishing.

Every year for the past several, Mike has trekked back up to Hayward, Wisconsin for the American Birkiebiener, a 50k ski marathon hailing from Nordic skiing’s earliest roots.

Mike’s full report is below, but I’ll just warn you now: if you finished his report from last year (or the year before!) saying, “oh, that SUCKS,” you might just want to skip this year’s report altogether. Except that then you’d miss his offer for free drinks.

From the frostbitten mouth of our favorite physician…

My annual XC ski marathon and pilgrimage to Wisconsin was dampered somewhat by Frostbite, FROZEN BEER, and by my Dad’s ongoing cancer struggles. It really wasn’t the same without him. It would have been is 34th consecutive “Birkie” race, but this year he was too ill to even watch from the sidelines. Our usual “crew” put on a pre and post-race party at my parent’s house which was definitely the highlight of the weekend for all of us. He was still skiing with us in spirit, for sure! The race was another story!

I was really in good shape this year due to all the snow here, and managed to meet my time goal of sub-2:30 (the winners were 2hrs even). BUT I didn’t have the “high end” fitness needed to keep pace on the hilly sections in the first 15k. – REALLY TIRED LEGS and oxygen debt are NOT a good combination at 2 degress Farenheit!! Then Water bottle froze solid by 12K and GU was like a rock. I almost gave up hope of a good finish by 18K but managed to limit my losses somehow, and rejoined a nice smooth group as we passed the main pack of Elite women) at ~half-way point. I’d forgotten how nice it is to ski with the Women Elites – so graceful and technically excellent.. and, ahh, the spandex!! but I digress..

Unfortunately, the sufferring gradually returned from 28-35 K, despite a much-need feed from the Fischer team/factory reps. Thank God I was skiing my Fischer Skis at that moment! Then I cramped up hard (as usual) on the steep climb at 41K (Aptly named “Bitch Hill”) and a few more people passed me before I regrouped again for a strong finish. I missed my PR by only 6 min, but still missed out (again!)on the “elite wave” placement for next year – finished 218th out of ~3000 men in the “skating” division. (over 8000 did then event in various techniques!!) I was just 2 min slower than needed for my top 200 goal. (last year I was 203rd, and in 2009 was 140th). There were also a lot of Europeans this year, which filled up the top ranks for sure!, but made the race more awesome than ever overall!!

To add insult to injury, I got a moderate case of frostbite, as race temp only warmed up to 5 deg by the finish (and it was snowing!). AND the beer we usually keep in the car for post-race FROZE SOLID as soon as the bottles were opened. I finally figured out that if I downed them within 30 sec of opening, it would only be slushy. This was my biggest accomplishment of the day, and it made me feel better in more ways than one!

I did fare better than many others, though, including my sister who finished in over 7 hours and friend Dan who took about 6 hours (both on very little training, using the slower “classical” style). Talk about toughness! – Try doing that in 0-deg temps and a very hilly course!

I’m pretty sure this is my last competitive “Birkie” for a few years, but who knows. I’m definitely still planning to ski the race next year as a “tour”, and would LOVE to guide some new skiiers from Ohio in their first attempt… It’s really a MUST-SEE for anyone who skis or just likes adventure! I’ll even buy beer afterwards, or even something stronger that’s less likely to freeze!

Check this for more info, pictures, and the cool Mid-Evil History behind this Epic event.


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