Day 11: Birkebeiner (JNT athlete perspective)

by all JNT athlete Birkebeiner skiers!

Malcolm: It was great to race against people of all different ages, both men and women, and still get my butt kicked. It was an incredibly exciting race, even without getting hit by any snowmobiles. The views were incredible, and easily made the pain worth it.

Teammates preparing for a long ski!

Sara: The 2017 Birkebeiner was one of the best skis of my life. Waking up early with my team and heading to the venue, we dabbed sparkles and face paint on our cheeks and got hyped together before the race, and then we all came together at the end of the race to help each other recover. In the middle was a time of sunny skies with seas of people stretching forward and backward into infinity as I skied along with the other 8000 participants (16,000 participated across all the events that comprise the “Birken Skifestival”). It was amazing to see skiing as such a large event and to be a part of it. Loud cheering crowds along the trail, aid stations, some planned and some just random people holding out bananas or chocolate, and perfect conditions and wax made this day one I will never forget.

Jacob: I did as the coaches said and found an old man with a bunch of old Birken tags on his skis to follow.  This gentleman had very fast skis, so I would pull ahead on the climbs, and then he would catch me on the downhills.  We made it to a particularly long and fast downhill, and part of the way down, I watched him fly by me.  Unfortunately, there was a large group of slow skiers ahead of us taking up all of the tracks.  My pace setter was unable to get out of their way, and he smashed right into one of the slow skiers ahead of us, hitting the ground, breaking a ski, and spinning off of the trail into the snow.  Ouch.

The skies cleared as we were waiting to start!

Andy: This race was one of the most fun and exciting races I have ever taken part in. It was a beautiful bluebird day with the temperature hovering around 35. Our team had some of the best skis with amazing glide and even better kick. Later as I felt myself beginning to slow down and I used the beautiful day and the hundreds of spectators lining the trail as motivation to keep skiing hard. One day I would love to go back and ski it again, but I doubt it will be a day much better than this one was.

Perrin: The entire trip we had talked about the Birke, how excited we were, how long it was going to be, how we were going to go about racing it. But when the day of the race came, no amount of talking could have prepared me for how much fun I was going to have. The weather was perfect, and I strided a large amount of the 54 km which is my favorite kind of skiing. Greta kept me going and we chatted and followed each other the whole way. It was amazing to have someone to ski with and it made the time go by so fast! I don’t even remember skiing for 4.5 hours, all I remember is the blue skies, beautiful views, and thousands of skiers ahead and behind us. The feeling of accomplishment afterwards was incredible and I hope to come back and do it again someday!

Erik at the finish

Erik: I didn’t know what to expect from my first Birkebeiner, but I wasn’t disappointed at all. Thousands of people showed up on Sunday for the same reason. To cross country ski for 33 miles on one of the nicest days I’ve ever seen. I enjoyed it so much that a couple times I forgot I was actually racing. Even though I had to set my own pace for the whole time, I was not alone. I passed thousands of people, and admired everyone just enjoying themselves and doing what they love to do. The race went really well for me, not just because of my time, but also because it was an amazing experience overall. I’m so happy we were able to ski the Birkebeiner and share so many amazing moments together throughout the whole trip.

Kennedy and Greta before the start

Kennedy: The Birkie was a very exciting race for me. I started by skiing the first kilometer around the familiar faces of my teammates and coaches, but was quickly separated after deciding to stop and take off my jacket. I skied the rest of the race more or less alone, but still had so much fun! I was able to meet people from all over the world. For example, I talked to a man from Granada, Spain, who ended up singing to me (he was very nice!) and another native Norwegian. I also had to stop at the top of the first big climb to marvel at the beautiful views. Seeing Liz waving her American flag and Dennis cheering me on in Sjusjoen was definitely one of the highlights for me! I hope that I will be able to do the race again because it was an amazing experience!

(Sportograf photo)

Adam: The Birkebeiner was an amazing experience.  We were lucky enough to have perfect weather.  I started in wave 15 and had to pass a ton of people, but it was really cool to see how many people were out there enjoying themselves and the sport I love so much.  I double poled the entire race on blank classic skis just like the fastest skiers in the elite wave and although I didn’t go as fast as they did, I got to feel what it was like to double pole a ski marathon just like the pros.

Keelan: This race was by far the most amazing race of my life. The perfect weather made for absolutly breath taking views which I will never forget. Something else that will stick with me for the rest of my life was looking behind me to see the hundreds of people that I had passed and then looking in front of me to see hundreds more. This was an equally amazing experience to all the cool things we did on this trip and I really hope I get the opportunity to race it again.

(Sportograf photo)

Tim: When it comes to ski racing I tend to lean more towards skating; skiing the Birkie made me love classic skiing just as much. Something about the amazing wax, the gorgeous weather, and going hard for 54K just made me really happy to be in that moment. There is a great possibility of me never living a day like that – under those circumstances- ever again; there is also no possibility of me ever forgetting that day or the people as long as I live.  Thank you to all.

John: I will never be able to replicate the feeling of being on the course that day. It was inexplicable with the weather and the people. During the whole race I was empowered with the feeling that I could not only race that day in that event but with the people I love to ski with and be around. It made feel part of something bigger, and I will always smile at the thought of a little voice calling my name during the whole race. That voice was Grant, I would not have rathered skied the race with any other person.

Grant: It was amazing! There wasn’t very many steep hills, so I was surprised when–about halfway through–I looked to my left and saw the clouds appeared to be touching the ground. Definitely would like to go back.

Greta and Perrin approach the finish line (Sportograf photo)

Greta: I loved this ski and want to ski it again someday! I woke up sooo excited, and I bounced around my apartment until it was time to leave. Hundreds of people streamed onto buses in the dark, and it felt like a celebration of skiing, snow, and Norway’s independence. Once on the race course, the thousands of people resembled a swarm of ants sweeping over a mountain range covered in blindingly white snow and rays of the burning sun. I skied with Perrin, and after every kilometer marker, we marveled at how many kilometers we’d already skied and enjoyed! The food stations were yummy, and it was amazing to ski with someone; among the hordes of mostly silent skiers around us, our voices and conversations were the magic that kept us going. After a series of downhills that Perrin helped me ski down with me attached to her pole so that we could go the same pace, we crossed the finish line. It felt so satisfactory to know that we are capable of transporting ourselves from town to town on skis! 

Justin: I was really amazed by the amazing weather and beautiful conditions out on the course. I was happy and surprised by all the people cheering for us on the side of the trail despite starting in wave fifteen. Contrary to what I was expecting the race was so interesting and enjoyable that despite some pain it didn’t seem too long. I was glad to ski with all different types of people who were enjoying the experience just as much as me. I will definitely do the Birkebeinerrennet again with far more knowledge and hopefully faster than I did it this time.

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