Every once in a while, something in your life clicks. You know the moment, it is when you finally figure out what the little screws on the deraileur do, or when you find just the right powervalve setting on the KTM 2stroke, or when you get the new 250XCF and the traction control settings turn out to be perfect for your favorite riding area, or when you get the perfect IPA and burrito pairing, or of course when you get PJ fan club seats on Mike’s side and he and Jeff really rock the night. Sometimes it is a small thing, sometimes it is a big thing.
I have found something in my life that clicks. I have always kinda really enjoyed the American Birkibeiner ski race, but the last 2 years have just clicked for me, and it all starts with this ski race. I have always been mostly a 2wheeled adventure kind of guy. But something about this race, and the town it lives in and the community it creates, just gets under your skin. It isn’t like a virus in a bad way, but it is kind of like that in a good way.
The story for me starts way back when I first discovered XC skiing. But in reality, the modern version of the story stated in January of 2018, I left Trek and didn’t really know what I was going to do. I was unsure of where we would live and what we would do. I didn’t know where we were headed. So, I threw myself into having a good result at the 2018 Birkie ski race.
I spent way more time at our place in northern Wi, I skied a ton. I did intervals, and I did long ski workouts with friends and basically shook off a couple of years of ways to many miles in airplanes and waaayy to much work driven stress in my life. I learned about waxing, I thought about how to race the 50K Birkie. I prepped and I rested and I had a race plan. Race day came, and I had a pretty good race. Not as good as I wanted to, but the gun goes off in a race and you do what you can to make it work. The 2018 Birkie was not my fastest race, but it was a good result. Liz had a good race as well. Thing seemed like they were falling into place.
That race made us decide to sell the house in Madison, and move to the Hayward area full time. It was a big move, and it has not been easy. There have been times when we both have questioned the move, and probably will be more of those times in the future. There has been alot of soul searching for us both, and alot of 2nd guessing. There has been so much of us trying to find our way with what we are doing up here in the Northwoods, that this years race kinda snuck up on us. We actually didn’t really get to focus on preparing for the Birkie at all this year. We both found ourselves with less training time behind us than last year.
On top of that, when race day morning came around, we were faced with falling snow overnight and a couple of inches of potentially wet fresh snow. So to summarize the scene, we were under prepared, not sure of ourselves and the conditions were not a cakewalk. But, we rallied.
I got our skis nailed with the wax, and Liz and I both knuckled down and pulled out decent results. I was 15 minutes slower than last year, and had to work way harder than last year to limit myself to that loss in time. The conditions were slow, and I talked to many people that were 30+ minutes slower than the previous year. There is no hiding on the Birkie trail.
I have so much respect for Liz, as she didn’t think she could do it all this year. She spent alot of time telling everyone that she isn’t cut out for the Birkie. In spite of all of that, she hardened the F up, and finished only about 25 minutes slower than she did last year. She is so tough.
Main Street the day before the race.
Through all of this, I have come to love our new life in Northern Wi, outside of the rat race of Madison and my old job, and inside the great community we have fallen into in the Hayward area. Hayward/Cable is truly the great outdoor small town in the upper midwest. There is no place that has the skiing, the fat biking, the snowmobiling, the MTB riding, the hiking, the gravel riding, the fishing, the lakes, the rivers, the wildlife…
When I was younger, I used to say that I would someday end up in Montana. And Montana IS a great place. But, without having to uproot everything in my life, I have found the midwest version of that. Happy to call Hayward Wi. my home. Sometimes it all just clicks.