By Kelly O’Day, Editor
What to do but enjoy
Sometimes the best-laid plans, with layers of contingencies, all fall through despite everyone’s best intentions.
Birkie 17 is the epitome of such a scenario.
Snow had been pretty steady in the northern half of Wisconsin over the winter, after showing up early over the entire region to give our southern friends a tease, before a little glitch a month before Birkie time. But a week before the big event, downright scary conditions reared their head, with record highs backed by a day of rain. We’re talking April highs.
Everything was in limbo. But take one step back to a personal trial not two weeks before race day after skiing on an incredibly icy night. On the opening 20K loop, I realized this was the time for back-up poles and I vowed to switch them out when I refilled my water bottle. Of course, I was waylaid by discussion, started another lap without making the change, and promptly fell on a section that didn’t require my rapt attention, snapping a good pole in the process. A quick check had me facing a fair, but expensive, replacement cost, before a friend came up with an alternate. His buddy at United States Ski Pole Company would let me have a bargain on a non-current pole.
If you know me, I do love a deal, so I jumped on it, guaranteeing I would have the most mis-matched poles out there for form. For function, they were quite similar and both more than capable of the three-hour-plus time I was eyeing. I foolishly ordered a size too large, meaning I would add cut-down duties to a busy week of packing/prepping/deadlines, but it turned out to be a boon since the two companies use slightly different sizing and I needed to lop 3 1/2 centimeters, not five.
Now all I needed was a great course, and I could attack my 30th Birkie in style. Cue our weather travails.
I kept telling everyone I was staying positive, no matter how dire the predictions/situation got. When they instead predicted a late cool-down with significant snow, I felt vindicated, while not counting actual future chickens.
Ben Popp, executive director of the Birkie, kept up a bright attitude, too, all the way through days of hope dashed to the floor when the snowstorm swept south, blanketing Eau Claire with a foot of snow while leaving Hayward/Cable with a dusting.
Ben was finally relegated to calling it a training day for 2018, with his crew working overtime to offer a 5K loop for the thousands of skiers who still hit the start area on Saturday morning. The trail wouldn’t hold up for long, with many tossing down multiple laps to go with shot-ski stops.
Then it was on to the party just east of the start building. Beers, brats (meat tubes?) and bands saved the day, including a Molly and the Heymakers – wait, Molly and the Danger Band – sighting. This on top of an epic big-block jenga game in the Clif Cafe on Friday night, with 30 surprisingly-engrossed onlookers drinking free beer and giving out high fives and praise after every block successfully removed later in the game. We almost maxed out this teetering, twisting pile of blocks.
Add to that a weekend of great people at the Silent Sports booth, and time freed up for wonderful new friends, it was hard to be down in the dumps.
Thanks to all who stopped by the Silent Sports booth at the Birkie, from those who subscribed to those who offered suggestions and/or appreciation.