Sunday, February 26, 2012

The American Birkebeiner

This past weekend over 10,000 skiers made the pilgrimage to Telemark Lodge to start the 39th American Birkebeiner.  The race had the most participants ever in its history and although this was my third Birkie  it never ceases to amaze me how excited everyone is about the big race.  The enthusiasm is contagious and it is hard not to smile.

I had quite the scare the week before the race when I woke up feeling a little off.  I decided to take the day off from training but a cold had already found it's way into my system and into my lungs.  I drank fluids, slept as much as possible, took ZiCam, and hoped that I would be healthy for the big race.  Last year I won the race and it had a major impact on my life.  The American Birkebeiner is a really big deal, it is the largest marathon in North America.  In the Midwest it is focal point for many skiers season.  Additionally the race has the largest cash purse in North America.  Last year I used the winnings to pay off my debts from the Olympics and make the down payment on our first house. 

This year was the fantastic! On race day I woke up feeling great and excited to race.  With 20km to go I went to the front and picked up the pace.  After a few kilometers Holly Brooks told me that we had a gap on the rest of the field.  We worked together to increase the gap on our way to Hayward.  We rounded the last bend on to main street and gave everything we had for the final sprint to the line.  Although it is always good to win, there is no one else I would have rather finished second to than Holly.  A good friend Holly stood by me as my bridesmaid, was roommate at the Olympics.

 Women's Skate Podium: Caitlin Gregg (CXC), Holly Brooks (APU), Jennie Bender (CXC)

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