The bad news came today, February 24th, 2017. The 2017 Birkie had been cancelled. All our hopes were pinned on a massive snowstorm that dropped about a foot on Eau Claire but didn't make it much North of Rice Lake.
Through this whole topsy-turvy week, the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation has been fantastic. Ben Popp has been doing daily video updates, diligently going through a process that included contingency plan after contingency plan and letting the racers know where Birkie headquarters stood every step of the way. But the Birkie office can't control the weather and we just didn't get the necessary last minute snow to save the day.
I was on my way back from picking up my bib in Hayward when my wife read the cancellation announcement. This is one of those things you hear which takes a little bit of time to get used to. The Birkie is the race many of us circle on the calendar as the focus for the entire year. It keeps you honest in a world that wants to seduce you onto the couch and put pounds on you and make you sedentary. The intimidation factor of the Birkie makes you go out at 6PM in total darkness and ski for an hour in -10 degree weather. Maybe, just maybe, at the end of the year, you'll find you not only have enough energy and strength to finish the Birkie, but you also have enough fitness to chase your children around, and be healthy, and happy.
The good news is that the fitness you develop while training for the Birkie doesn't go away when mother nature isn't cooperative. The 2017 Birkie has done its job. We're fit, ready to go, and already looking forward to the next epic event. Training for the 2018 Birkie begins now.
I'm planning on heading up to the start area tomorrow to enjoy the Birkie events. It just wouldn't feel right to not wake up on Birkie morning, nervous and excited, to drive up to Cable for a day on skis with your 10,000 closest friends. My hope is that if Ben Popp is there, maybe we can talk him into awarding us a completion pin if we do a lap or three on their 5k loop :).
Remember folks that your race fees go to maintain and preserve the wonderful trail system that is the envy of the rest of Northern America. Many of the most memorable moments of my life have taken place on that brutal, beautiful windy track that stretches down from Cable to Hayward. We'll see y'all up at the start area tomorrow. Birkie 2017 is cancelled, long live the Birkie!
With my mom who would have been skiing her 30th Birkie...it'll have to wait for next year!