So another year goes by. Some people mark the year by a birthday, or a calendar page turning over, or their kids growing. Increasingly, I have been marking the year by the start gun and the banner going up on the start of another Birkie. The Birkie has become bigger than big in my life. Beyond just another event or another ski race. Sure, it is a ski race but it is so much bigger than that, it is one of the greatest events you can find. If you do not know what I am talking about, take a look at the video below. But the event itself is just the tip of the iceberg.
The town of Hayward and the town of Cable truly come alive with the Birkie time. They are both quiet little places of just a few thousand people total. Normally just a bunch of skiers, mountain bikers, outdoor lovers, fishermen, snowmobilers and just a bunch of great people that love living in a quiet little town in northern Wisconsin. They like having deer or wolf tracks their front yard in the morning, or seeing a bear on their mountain bike ride. They like seeing the same group of friends on the weekends at a restaurant or in town. They are some of the greatest people that I know anywhere (and some of the most fit people I have ever met).
But, their quiet little town takes on a completely different feel when the Birkie comes to town. 35,000 people make a place entirely different. This great little town just opens up its heart and soul to the guests. Seriously, it isn’t like any other place in the world. I mean there is a ski trail up main street for crying out loud. No one complains, no one is worried about it. In fact, every person in town is on main street at race time ringing cowbells, having a beer and shouting out at the racers finishing.
There is a Skijoring race (dog and skier tied together), there is a kid ski race, elite racer sprints, a big ski 6 persons attached to it all at once race, a 29km race and a 50km race. They all take part on the same trail, ending on the same temporary ski trail on main street in Hayward.
This year was my 7th time to do the big race. I did my first one way back in the late 80’s, then moved away and didn’t get to do the race again for many years. I did a few in the 90’s, then my family and job distracted me and I didn’t really make the time for the dedication to XC skiing that it requires. Finally in 2015 I was able to get back to doing the race on a regular basis. I love it. Cannot get enough of it. I wish it was happening again next weekend. Unfortunately, it will be another 12 months before we get to ski up main street again. (But there will be a ton of fat biking, skiing, mountain bike riding, gravel road riding and about 15 other things to do in the northwoods before then.)
So how did it go this year?
Hanna – Korteloppet. 3rd in her age group in difficult conditions.
Liz – 1st Birkie. 3:31. awesome finish. She is tougher than she admits.
Adam – 2nd Birkie. 2:50. Amazing for a guy that only just started XC skiing.
Me – 7th Birkie. 3:13. Not my fastest Birkie ever, but pretty close.
The logistics of the Birkie never cease to amaze me.
13,000 skiers. point to point race. moving the people, expo for all the people, picking up race packets, getting them all to the start on time, feed zones every 5km, feeding everyone after the race, creating parking lots for all those cars, 35,000 people flowing into a couple of towns that normally hold 3000 people. And it all comes off without a hitch. Amazing. I am so proud to be part of the community here and to have such an amazing event in the town that I live in.
Here is to the whole Birkie crew and all the volunteers, thank you so much from the whole race and town. I cannot wait until next year.
(I did not take these photos, most came from the Birkie site)