The Birkebeiner (continued)

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.”

The Birkebeiner (Racer’s Perspective)

written by Isaiah
Today, or yesterday depending on what waking up at 4:45 is considered, the four Birkie skiers (Jack, Paco, Rosalie, and myself) and two coaches woke up to ski the focus of most Norwegians, the Birkebeiner. After a small breakfast consisting of oatmeal, yogurt, and the fixings, we loaded up into the “Silver Slug” to catch a bus from Lillehammer to Rena. On the course of the two hour ride Paco ended up making a new friend with an experienced “Birkie” skier from Wisconsin. In Rena, the parking lot was packed with tons of skiers, easily the most I’ve seen in one place. The main order of business was to see if Swix was recommending a kick wax to cover our klister medleys. It ended up being VR50. While the more organized three quarters of our group finished our ski preparation, Paco was finding the optimal sack weight or something similar. In an effort to secure good spots near the front of our wave the rest of us headed to the start, after of course reminding Paco to remember his ski stickers and brikke (timing chip). Shortly after the start us guys (unfortunately I have no clue what happened to Rosalie from this point on) found ourselves out in front of our wave and quickly catching the next one. The race course was packed, even with 8 lanes we had to sneak up the side of the trail to get by anyone. Obviously people were not observing the stay right except to pass recommendations. As far as wax, our skis had perfect kick (thank you Scottie and Dennis), which is fortunate because the first third of the race is completely uphill. Soon after the start Jack and I lost sight of Paco in the masses ahead. So we skied together for a good portion of the race, until the first downhill. That’s when I found out that my klister zones weren’t the most clearly marked. That combined with Jack’s impressive speed in and out of the feed zones left me skiing relatively alone amongst the thousands of other skiers. Eventually I stopped to scrape back some klister, actually twice. Good thing too because the second half of the race is mostly downhill and flat. In regards to feed zones, I was very impressed, there were usually at least two options including water and Powerade early on, and in the second half Coke, smoothies, bananas, and a plethora of European sports drinks and energy bars. Between feed stations there were often groups of people offering drinks or food unofficially, often companies promoting their one drink or families watching the race. However, the most impressive display of food was at the finish, the race organizers had set up all the afore mentioned in addition to chips, oranges, soup, bread, and the best apples I’ve ever chowed on. After meeting up with Paco and Jack on the outside world, we learned that lo and behold, Paco “lost” his brikke. As far as results, Jack was the only one to make The Mark, although he’s skeptical as to how he made it even while not making the Mark time, Paco may have made it but we’ll probably never know…

finding bags after the race
Jack wondering whether he really made the mark

Friday

written by George
Today we began our laborious task of repacking our belongings, and the nick nacks that we bought at the Birkebeiner Market. One thing that complicated the move from Lillehammer to Sjusjøen was that we had to move out of the apartment in Lillehammer by 12:00 PM, and the apartment in Sjusjøen wouldn’t open up until 2:00 PM. When we arrived in Sjusjøen we decided to go for a ski in the surrounding area.
Where we ended up going for an exhilarating ski was through what seemed like the forbidden forest from Harry Potter, due to the dense unmoving fog that seemed to hang over the trails and limited sight to only around 50 meters, while the Birkebeiner skiers had a relaxing tour around the trails, some of our spring bucks decided to take off and find some challenging terrain.

Tour Near Sjusjøen, the Olympic Museum, and the Birkebeiner Market

written by Emily and Helen

Today we went on another classic tour. We started in Storåsen, then skied backwards on about 7 km of the Birkebeiner trail. It was located up in between two hills, but the trail itself was very flat.  Then we went up over a knoll, where there was an amazing view, and then flew down hill. At the bottom, there were teams of dogs that were taking people on tours.

on the Birkebeiner trail at Midtfjellet
dog team tours
group skiing back toward Storåsen

After returning to Lillehammer, some of us headed to the Olympic Museum, which covered the history of the modern Olympics from 1896 through 2008. The exhibits included the major aspects of each games and the progession of the Norwegian team. They started off very roughly, hardly medaling at all, even in nordic skiing. Then as the years went on, they got better and better and became what they are today.
Our next event of the day was the Birkebeiner Market. There were huge sales on many sports items. Most of them being nordic. There was everything a skier could imagine, hats, jackets, gloves, skis, poles, energy bars, wax, and much more. We all left with at least two items. This just reinforced how nordic skiing is a very large part of Norwegian culture, and it’s really cool for us to see.

Climbing the Jump

written by Sam R

Last night on the way home from the night race we made a pit stop. Although we had talked about it at a meeting, it was a surprise to me because I had fallen asleep. I awoke to find the Lillehammer ski jumps in front of me. We all jumped out and ran around taking pictures.  The jumps are sometimes lit up at night and are visible from miles away.  Actually standing on the outrun and looking up at the landing hills was breathtaking.  The jumps are big as the photo from the stands of our group on the outrun shows.