Thursday, February 23, 2017

Race Report -- Canadian Birkebeiner

For my money, one of the coolest things about being part of the ski community is having friends in their 70s, 80s, and even 90s who don't just go for a ski; they commit.  They sign up for a race and put on a number and toe the starting line and say, "Let's do this thing," and then do it.  And then tell us all about it!  Exhibit A: Gunnar Unneland, rocking the 80+ age group at this year's 55k Canadian Birkebeiner.  Way to go, Gunnar, and thanks for sharing your report!

A long-distance XC ski race report for relatives and friends:

Some of you knew of my somewhat ambitious plan of surviving a 55KM Canadian Birkebeiner race. Last year it was cancelled for lack of snow plus I got sick.

After consulting my stamina by skiing 4 hours nonstop a while back, I felt I could give it a chance. It takes place near Edmonton, Alberta, about 1-1/2 hours to get there by plane. 3 other friends from our ski club had signed up. I shared a hotel room with one of them and we arrived Thursday, with the race taking place Saturday at 9:30. I entered without a backpack which was a good choice. There are 2 other Birkebeiner races in the world -- in Norway and the USA -- and when you have done at least one of each,  Canada hands out what they call a King Haakon award. I made it! (The race is commemorating a historical event.)

The weather was nice and sunny. The temperature adjusted overnight to a tolerable level and I ended up removing the windbreaker most of the distance and kept warm hands all the way. The partially crusty snow wore down wax so I had to re-wax twice. I had good glide on my old Skilom skis but the course itself turned out much harder than expected. Twists and turns, up and down with few open flats, although the second half was better. Much of the distance I was totally alone! The reason being the better, faster skiers were sent out first.

The following morning I had stomach trouble so I did not eat until back in Seattle! The return trip Sunday went well, though, with some very tired muscles, of course.

Hilsen Gunnar

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