The temperature last night in northern Minnesota dipped into the high 30's and the low 40's. With this event, Nordic Skiers started to dream of Winter. For some of us, Winter in the Northland means cross-country skiing and the American Birkebeiner ... otherwise known as the Birkie.
Here in Duluth, four of us have a problem. Who should have Birkie Fever Trash Talking Rights AFTER this coming Winter's race? Let me describe the competitors, and maybe you can help us handicap the race in advance and solve our dilemma! This coming February, we four hardy Minnesotans shall bravely venture forth into CheeseHead Land and ski American's top cross-country ski marathon.
Pastor Greg: The salutation says it all. Any Lutheran pastor in Minnesota obviously has God on his side, which is an unfair advantage. In fact, while out on the local trails, Greg is known as the "Flying Pastor". You will never find him in the church office till he has completed a "quick 20k".
In fact, when we decided to join Pastor Greg's church, we were not surprised by his questions on whether we understood the Holy Trinity, but the requirement to submit our most recent top 15k splits while out on the Lester Amity Trails caught us off guard. Then we learned, FRLC does not stand for French River Lutheran Church, but instead French River Loppet Club. Pastor Greg will be skiing the 50k skate race.
Our next competitor is my son, Erik. Although he has experience a four year hiatus from serious cross-country skiing due to obtaining his college degree at a school w/o snow, this newly minted engineer has three advantages over us. First, he is over 30 years younger than any of the rest of us, was rated as one of his high school's top skiers upon graduation, and as an aerospace guidance engineer should understand both aerodynamics and how to achieve the perfect "technical" linkage with the Birkie's hilly trail. Erik will be skiing the 50k skate race.
Of course, then there is my wife Molly. What can you say about a woman who upon her retirement at the end of this past Winter decided to become a full time athlete at age 57? Even though she "already" had two Boston Marathons under her belt, in the intervening months she has hiked the Canandian Rockies. skied the Wabos Loppet, biked the 500 mile Trans-Superior Tour, and just finished a four day wilderness canoe trip in the BWCA. Her new bike this Spring already has over 3,000 miles! She will also ski the 50k skate race.
Unlike everyone else, I am at a disadvantage. My Birkie is the "classic" race, which means I ski a longer race by 4 kilometers, and classic skiing by definition is slower than skating. However, at 6 feet 2 inches (height is an asset), and an old Nordic Ski instructor from my college days, I tend to know what I'm doing. Even though I'm getting older, my times are still getting better. I will start in Wave 3 out of 10 this Winter. I will ski the 54k classic race.
Thus, the gauntlet has been thrown down on the snow. How do we decide who has the best Birkie Fever trash talking rights for this Winter's Birkie? Can you help us decide? Each person in our group has unique advantages! Finally, how do we compare times, or is the obvious answer each of us will be a winner for finishing! Think snow!