Part IV: The Final Sprint of Sean’s 2009 American Birkebeiner

[note: to read parts 1-3, go to Archives and click on April 2009]


I am not perfect. And I am not dead. I am still skiing.


A sweeping left hand bend and I can finally see the lake. And Lake Hayward is a cake walk; a 4 km piece of smooth gliding, just before the sprint through main street. I feel weak and giddy, sick and gloppy. One reason that I feel gloppy is because of the all the wool that I am wearing. Sure the big news in technical gear these days is Smartwool and Icebreaker, but what I now know is that after five hours of continual sweating, the fibers reach their max, and they sort of droop. So, I feel moist gobs of wool flapping around my arms and legs.


My legs cramp up again. I think about eating another Gu, but what if a real emergency should strike? I decide to save the Gu. I come up with a great idea. Since my legs are not working, why not use my arms and just pole for a while. This is working very well. I am going slowly, but making progress. I hear someone slowly catching up to me on my left. I look and see a young woman. She is carrying her ski poles like you would carry firewood. Her skate skiing technique is quite good though. I look at her and she looks at me. I say “hi.”


She responds by crying. It is certainly not uncommon to see and hear crying in the Birkebeiner; if crying helps, then you should do it. But the sound of her crying throws me off. A sort of “boo hoo, boo hoo,” sound reaches me as she continues to pass me. Now, of course we know from cognitive neuroscience that crying, the actual tears, precede the feeling of sadness. What if she is crying because of some crazy joy? That is possible you know. I cried during the 1984 Olympics when Alexi Grewal beat Steve Bauer in the men’s road race. As I think of that sprint, a sprint that Grewal could not even dream of winning against the powerful Canadian sprinter, I too start to cry.


I wonder if Alexi G. ever had problems due to winning?
I wonder if Alexi G. ever had problems due to winning?


We skate and cry next to each other for a minute before she slowly pulls away from me. Hey wait. Her race bib number is in the ten thousands. She is a tenth waver. I catch back up to her. She skates and I pole. We form one complete skier. Oh, that little rise really hurt me. I stop. I survey the scene before me. A smooth downhill run and there, just past those trees, I see the lake. Almost home. I start poling again and then I see him.

………….Do you like what you are reading? Then read on a bit further.

SORRY READERS!  I have taken down the rest of this entry because I am expanding the Birkie story and sending it out to small presses for publication. Let me know if you are interesting in a copy of such a book:


4 Comments on “Part IV: The Final Sprint of Sean’s 2009 American Birkebeiner

  1. Epic stuff, Sean. No wonder you do not hesitate to say you must go back. Hopefully I’ll be there, too.

  2. This is so hilarious! I did several birkies many years ago but can’t say any were as memorable as yours!

    You’re a fabulous writer. I’m still laughing.

  3. Incredible! I laughed until I had tears in my eyes, yet at the same time I was inspired – goosebumps like at the start line. I shared with about a dozen of my Birkie buddies! Let me know if you need a ride next year..

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