written by Rosalie
What a day! It started at 4:45 a.m. when we woke up in darkness and headed to the Bus Station in Lillehammer. We saw skiers flock from every direction with skis and poles in hand, all heading to a common destination: Rena, the start of the Birkebeiner.
Our wave alone (wave 19 out of 26) consisted of about 900 people, which is larger than any ski race in which I had previously participated. But that was just the wave…the race as a whole was made up of about 14,000 skiers!
As Isaiah said, I lost sight of the boys pretty quickly…Paco was leading the pack, and Jack and Isaiah were not far behind. I was feeling pretty tired from the start (oh boy! it was to be a long 54k then…), so took the pace fairly conservatively. Plus, the first 20km were literally all uphill!
Each time a “summit” came into sight, I felt a glimmer of hope that it was the top of the mountain we were climbing. Yet each glimmer was shattered when more climbs lay hidden beyond the peaks. At one point, when I serioulsy doubted I could climb any further, I got off to the side of the trail, re-waxed my skis, had some water, and attempted to mentally prepare myself for the challenges that lay ahead. Finally, a big sign read “Mountain Prize Ahead 500m” and at that point I knew that that must be the high point of the course, the “mountain prize.”