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  • Writer's picturerganderson915

American Birkebeiner Dramatic Edition

Updated: Feb 29


This past Saturday I skied my 3rd American Birkebeiner 50k in Cable, Wisconsin. My favorite part of the Birkie is that it’s always such a journey out there, and you never know what kind of journey it will be. Everyone is pushing through discomfort to varying degrees, cheering each other on, and celebrating cross country skiing in all its history and progress. 

There was zero natural snow on the Birkie trail this year, and the American Birkebeiner Foundation did nothing short of wonders to pull this year’s race off with laps of a 10k artificial snow loop. 

Erin Bianco, me, Alex Lawson pictured here

My race goal this year was to hold on to the front pack for as long as possible. I managed to hold on pretty comfortably for 30k, which rapidly turned uncomfortable when I bonked and eventually froze my eyes. I lost 15 minutes on the group by the finish! The sensation of my eyes thawing/healing the rest of the night was excruciating. I got a lot of pity (and pirate jokes) after the doctor gave me an eye patch. My vision was weird for the next few days.

Taking a break from crying to smile for this picture. I don't really recommend freezing your eyes

I was so focused on maintaining contact with the group that I didn’t take any substantial feeds, or remember to blink I guess. Truly bonking is a crazy feeling. It’s not the same as the usual tired/painful feeling I get in hard races, but instead it’s just a complete shutdown. My muscles were cramping and I felt like a zombie.  And looked like one. It was probably good for me to learn "the hard way" about the importance of good fueling for future races. I won't take it lightly next time, that's for sure.

Erin fed me fruit snacks until I came back to Earth

My team was lucky to stay with an extremely welcoming and warm group of people. We had nice group meals and soaked in the true spirit of Birkie week out in the woods with good vibes. 

It was a wonderful weekend despite getting physically destroyed by the race itself. I felt like a bit of a drama queen recounting this story, but in reality it was one of the more painful things I've experienced so maybe it was warranted. I figure I should include the terribly unglamorous moments if I'm going to write about all the good ones!!

Thanks for reading. Birkie fever temporarily cured…


Hunter tried to ruin my food picture by putting his hand in it, but his hand didn't actually look so bad

Lake Owen


Zeke trying to fix my eye (can you tell which one froze?)

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