This winter I followed a slightly different schedule than last year. I continued to race the Supertour through its Eastern tour, but soon after found myself back in the good, ol’ Midwest. I jumped into the Mayor’s Challenge races on my old stomping ground at Theodore Wirth, helped out at the Ski with the Stars Minnesota Youth Ski League relays, and made my way up to the largest ski race in the United States: the American Birkenbeiner. A week before the event went off, the Birkie was put on the FIS World Loppet race schedule, meaning a posse of fast Europeans jumped the pond to line up with us in Telemark. I had quite the experience-building race, working in the aggressive lead pack until the last 10 kilometers (even leading quite a few times, which you can check out here in the Birkie re-cap video: http://www.birkie.com/2016-birkie/). With 10 kilometers to go, I “hit the wall”, and V-1ed my way into the finish, perfectly planning my final “sprint” to align with David Norris’s (my APU teammate) victorious glory sprint to his first Birkie win! Of course, having a front row seat to the show was my plan all along…perfectly executed race plan!
After the Birkie, I returned back to Minneapolis for the best part of my month: Asian Week. Asian Week is the taste sensation celebration that involves taking advantage of Minneapolis’ diverse grocery stores, some Internet recipe research, and a dose of creativity, to create a homemade Asian dish every evening. From Monday’s spring rolls, Tuesday’s pad thai, Wednesday’s North Korean rice, Thursday’s sushi, Friday’s curry and Saturday’s Great Wall (my favorite Chinese restaurant in the world) end-of-week festapalooza, we went on a taste tour of all Americanized Asian culinary delights. After a weekend off, the next week I traveled up to Houghton, MI, to race Calumet’s Great Bear Chase. The Bear Chase is unique because it is a skiathlon on a 25-kilometer loop. You race one loop classic, and then transition to one loop skate. Because of low snow in virtually every venue we have raced at this season, we usually are forced to do short laps of a manmade loop. However, the Bear Chase was the exception, which made the race much more fun and entertaining. I skied with quite a few Midwest Masters—go number 66!, and won the women’s race, placing 10th in the men’s. Shout out to Bruce Manske and CXC for helping me with waxing!
I was able to sneak in a few gorgeous sunny skis on the Michigan Tech trails, which still have feet of snow, and I jumped into a Ski Tigers practice, helping coach with my host for the weekend, Alice Flanders. From Houghton I headed back down to Cable, to watch and cheer at Junior Nationals, along with logging some kilometers on the Wisconsin ski super highway (the Birkie trail). After a sunny 60 degree day the first day, the racecourse closed, and so I joined some of the JN skiers for some skis on the Birkie trail. While the trail is probably on its last days, it was fun to share a quintessential Midwest icon with the Alaska team. Now, I am back in Minneapolis (hoping to ski, but mostly tanning in the 60+ degree weather) until the last races of my season at Spring Series in Craftsbury, Vermont next week.