Sunday, March 27, 2011

Birkebeinerrennet: The official Lillestange update

Greta "heia"ing Racer #625, with norsk 
og amerikansk flagger.
My apologies (mostly to my husband) on my delayed-by-a-week entry on the Birkebeinerrennet. I was all fired up about my own ski race, and pounded out a blog entry that very day. The Birkie is a much bigger deal than my measley 15K race attracting 4,000 women. This is a ski marathon, Norway's largest, one of the world's most well known races, 54km long, over a mountain, and attracting 16,000 racers! Yes, you read that right: 16,000 skiers. 

Just beyond the finish line.
Check out the bluebird skies! What a day.
I am not nearly nuts enough nor in shape enough to even dream about completing or competing in a Birkebeiner ski race. But Erik was, and reported that it was "fun". Also quite exhausting. And he's ready to do it again next year. And is dangerously close to becoming competitive about it. 

He woke at 3:20am, drove down the hill to Lillehammer, hopped on a bus at 4am, and was driven 2 hours to the start. Around 7am his wave (the 2nd wave of starters, based on qualifying race finishes) was allowed to place their skis at the start, and at 8:10am his wave started, just 5 minutes after the first wave. 

In the meantime, I was receiving text messages on my phone telling me what his times passed through a few checkpoints along the race. This was rather handy, as I was able to time our arrival at the finish rather well, as well as have a really accurate estimate of when we should be carefully watching for Erik to finish. 

Greta and I positioned ourselves about 400m from the finish line, complete with a small norsk flagg and a somewhat embarrassingly large amerikansk flagg (hey, it was all I had). It attracted some curious looks, which I admit was really kind of the point. We stood along a section of trail where the racers would first cross above us from right to left, then swing down a tight hill and pass in front of us again from left to right. This enabled me to spot Erik coming up a short hill, where we could cheer for him twice, then turn around, and sprint 100m through the snow carrying a 29lb kid + 10lbs of clothing, and cheer for him sprinting towards the finish. 

A slitten Pappa and a stolt Greta.
It was another beautiful day, with bright blue skis, temps hovering just around freezing. The snow and tracks were in excellent condition, according to Erik. And it was a well-timed race, as the next 4 days brought nothing but sunshine and above freezing temperatures. Spring had arrived (and none too soon, if you ask me).


  1. Congrats to Erik! Did he do it the traditional way with several lbs of weight on his back (AKA carrying the Prince to safety)? John and I trained for the Birke back in Telemark, WI years back but were sad to arrive and find it cancelled (d/t rain)---the first time in history. We're going to try again one if these days:)
    Congrats on you too with your 15 K. Not shabby at all, esp competing with Norwegian women!

  2. Actually everyone is *required* to carry 3.5kg of weight on their back in lieu of a small prince! Erik is blaming that extra weight (which doesn't seem like much, until you're carrying it for 3+hrs) on strange leg cramps that plagued him on several different occasions that he has never had before, forcing him to stop skiing and rub them out.

    You and John should train again. . . and come ski it in Norway!!! Would love to have you!