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Bailey + Eric: An Introduction



In May of 2022 while we were riding in the desert, fighting off heat exhaustion and thinking about our first winter creating NORDJÖRK, we got a DM on insta. It read:


"Hi! I saw your recent post and figured I would reach out! I live in Minnesota and came across NORDJÖRK while training for my first 30k skate race. I've loved the technique tips and how easy they are to understand on Instagram. My husband, Eric is a lead ski tech at a local shop. We will both be participating in our first 50K BIRKIE next Feb. Let us know if you've got any use for two Minnesotans!"


With that, let's get to it.


 

bailey + eric


The Two Minnesotans


This message from Bailey + Eric, meant the absolute world to us. We were positively impacting people's skiing journeys in the digital world AND managed to build something that other nordies wanted to be a part of - to wax their skinny skis with glitter scrapers, be comfortable with being uncomfortable while learning a new sport, and connecting with our spirited sense of humor.


Despite deep, professional backgrounds in business, marketing and brand strategy putting our OWN faces, voices and values on the line is still humbling. So, Bailey's DM was fortifying, deeply gratifying, and it was precisely what we needed to hear to lean into our audacious vision for NORDJÖRK.


So, in a word - YES, Bailey. We've invited Bailey + Eric to be our first official AMBASSADORKS. We will spend the next few months learning and sharing with these two as they prepare to ski their first BIRKIE. From technique reviews to waxing protocols, training with a dog (and real jobs), and staying warm in the cold MN winters. Because they embody the spirit of learning, they understand that all trails rise with falling snow and, well - love the color pink.




 


bailey + eric


Let's Meet Bailey


I'm a dog-mom, plant-mom, resident doctor, mountain biker, nordie, amateur home chef, and more, but I didn't always claim those titles.




Once I was a Wisconsinite, dance team captain, and choir kid who liked to raise her hand too much in class.  


My first 18 years were spent in Appleton, WI. Growing up, I baked with my mom and grandma, but also started venturing outside more. My family had a tradition to camp at a nearby state park as soon as school let out for the summer. It was at this state park that I first had to face my fears and use the pit toilets.....even though they were full of spiders. I attended summer camp for a week each year where I learned the joys of backpacking, made new friends while playing capture the flag, and sang silly songs in a field.  


As my high school years unfolded, I still spent time outside with my family, but I also spent a significant amount of time studying and at dance practice. My weekends were jam-packed with sports game performances and dance competitions. On vacation, my family would kayak, canoe, hike, bike, and camp. I went to UW-Madison for college, and between semesters, I worked at the above-mentioned summer camp as a camp counselor and health coordinator. My love of outdoor adventure grew rapidly during this time as I brought young kids camping for the first time, became a lifeguard, and paddled much needed medications to campers in the middle of the night.  


Soon I found myself ready to graduate college, but not quite yet ready to apply to medical school. I had to take a gap year, so I applied for fun-sounding jobs all over the country. I ended up accepting a position as a kayak guide near Grand Marais, MN, a place I had previously never heard of. I packed my tiny Camry to the brim and drove 8 hours to live in a shared cabin with two other guides.  


On our first day of training as sea-kayak guides, I was paired with one of the male guides for a get-to-know-each-other icebreaker. He told me that his family owns cats, but he's actually a dog person. I giggled, and five years later we were married by the man who led that icebreaker.  


That summer, my now husband, but boyfriend at the time, Eric, encouraged me to sign up for my first true athletic event since high school. We were watching The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young,  when he suddenly announced he was going to sign up for the local marathon. Neither of us ran at the time. I thought he was crazy, so I signed up for the half marathon instead. I ran the full marathon the following spring.  


We spent the next year together moving frequently (have you ever tried to find housing in a tourist town?), adopting a rambunctious puppy, exploring the shores of Lake Superior by foot and kayak, and buying our first pair of nordic skis. We had both decided to stay in the area after summer ended and had agreed to guide nordic skiing lessons...there was just one problem. We didn't know how to nordic ski.  




I had alpine skied my entire life, but it turned out that classic skis don't work in quite the same way. I spent two weeks slipping, sliding, falling, and covered in snow, but was finally able to hold my own.


I taught Eric how to nordic ski that winter and that first lesson was the only time in our relationship that I have been faster than him.   


During this year of kayaking, running, and skiing, I was accepted into medical school in Des Moines and made the gut-wrenching decision to leave my life of adventure behind to pursue medicine. I spent the next two years living in Des Moines, driving 8 hours back and forth to Grand Marais to see Eric.  


COVID hit during my third year of medical school. I was pulled from rotations and sent to the virtual world for a few months, which meant I could live with Eric again, this time in a homemade tiny home without running water. We spent more time than ever skiing the nordic trails and taking long walks with our dog, contemplating what the future would hold. Just as life began feeling somewhat normal again, match day for residency informed us that we would be moving to Duluth, MN for the next three years.  


Once in Duluth, we met some incredible new friends who pushed us to new athletic levels. While we had previously been biking 20-30 miles on our long rides, we now dreamed of 100+ mile mountain bike races. Two of our close friends invited us nordic skiing with them and shared their love of the American Birkebeiner with us. My first year of residency I was sure I would never sign up - self-doubt, fear of failure, and lack of experience left me thinking I could never ski 50k in one fell swoop. However, our friends convinced us to do a 30k freestyle ski race last winter and we loved every second of it. Except for maybe the 7k of mashed potato snow at a slight uphill incline. Before we could talk ourselves out of it, we signed up for the Birkebeiner.  

 

I have never been a particularly fast athlete. I don't win races and I don't plan to start winning them anytime soon. But I find joy and satisfaction in training for something challenging and crossing the finish line, knowing that I put the hard work in to complete something I never thought possible.


I never thought I would sign up for the American Birkebeiner, but now my money and my pride are on the line, so I plan on making it across the infamous bridge into downtown Hayward come February.



 

bailey + eric


Let's Meet Eric


Hello! My name is Eric Kaira. I live in Duluth, MN with my talented wife Bailey and manic Wheaten terrier Lana. I work full-time as a bike mechanic in the summer, and as a ski tech in the winter. 






For me, biking and skiing are all about spending time outside and staying active.  I ride my bike and ski my skis to move through and explore the places that I love, the places that I call home. Moving my body keeps me sane, and experiencing the wilderness gives me purpose. 


2023 marked my first foray into the world of ski & bike racing. I skied my first race - the Sisu - in January, then followed that up with a summer full of bike events. I rode my first-ever bike race - the Grand De Nord - with Bailey in May, and then took on the Lutsen 99er in June. I finished the season off with the Marji Gesik 100 in September - 107 miles of singletrack and 13,000ft of elevation that took me just over 16 hours to complete.


Now that I have a few races under my belt, I can safely say that I’m hooked. There’s nothing more motivating than having an upcoming race to train for, and the energy at these events is addictive. With the 2023 bike season just about wrapped up, I’ve now got my sights set on the next big challenge - the 2024 American Birkebeiner. 


A little more about me - I grew up in a suburb of the Twin Cities, went to college in New York, and have spent the last decade living and recreating in Northeastern Minnesota. My favorite movie is unequivocally Braveheart, favorite tree is the tamarack, and the best song of 2023 is Highschool Gym by Dougie Poole. 


I was raised by two loving, supportive parents who’s parenting ethos revolved around letting me figure things out for myself. They weren’t passive - especially when it came to things like curfew and following through on commitments - but always incredibly supportive. Their support played an integral role in making my solo circumnavigation of Lake Superior in a sea kayak a reality, and they expressed nothing but excitement when I decided to move to a small northern town to work as a bartender after graduating with a degree in economics. No matter the goal, the dream, I can always count on them to help make it happen.


I have a younger sister and brother that I usually get along with, especially now that we’re adults and care less about who’s better at Mario Kart. As kids, we were competitive with one another, always trying to outdo the other person or at least keep up in whatever it was that we were up to. Being the oldest I would usually win, but now that we’re adults that’s all started to change.


My sister recently took me canyoneering in Utah and had to practically hold my hand as I nervously fumbled with the ropes and inched my way down the cliff, and I can’t remember the last time I beat my brother in anything that wasn’t biking. 


Like so many kids, then and now, I spent most of my free time growing up playing sports. My family wasn’t particularly athletic, but we’d spend our Sundays watching the Vikings play on TV and our Septembers rooting for the Twins. Competing on the 10th grade basketball team and playing three years of varsity soccer were as far as I ever made it with organized team sports.


I alpine skied as a kid, but never Nordic. I didn’t strap on my first pair of classic skis until much, much later, when I was working as a wilderness guide on the North Shore of Lake Superior. 

I joke that if I had spent as much time skate skiing in middle & high school as I did training for soccer or playing pick-up basketball with my friends at the YMCA, I would be an elite level athlete going into my 10th Birkie, with super stiff skis and those fancy lightweight boots that require heated socks to keep your feet from freezing in all of that sweet, sweet carbon.


Instead, here I am- a 30-year-old recreational skier, anxiously waiting for the snow to fly so that I can start training for my first Birkie. 


In the winter of 2016 - my second winter out of school - and I was looking for work after having just spent the summer making a living as a sea kayak and fly-fishing guide on Lake Superior. The resort that had hired me during the summer was looking for someone to lead wilderness snowshoe and cross-country ski tours in the winter, so I applied, got the job, and that was that. I was well on my way to becoming a nordie. 


The only issue was that I didn’t know how to Nordic ski. Bailey took me out skiing for the first time, in a last-minute training session to get me ready for my tour the next day. Keep in mind she was also pretty new to the sport, having just started classic skiing that winter for the same job.


Because of my lack of experience, the first tour that I took out was a little comical. We, meaning me and the family of five that I was “guiding”, all kind of figured it out together. I wore jeans and way too many layers, and did my best to pass along the tips and tricks I had been shown by my wife the day before. Thankfully, the guests were good sports about the whole situation. They definitely learned more about the area’s trees than Nordic skiing, but everyone had a good time, including me. 


I caught the Nordic bug hard that first winter. By the time spring rolled around, I was counting my kilometers and caring about wax, and it only got worse the following winter. Then, in 2018, I bought my first pair of skate skis, realized how great it is to ski fast, and never looked back. 

Now, between classic, skate, and backcountry, skiing is pretty much the only thing that I spend my time doing in the winter besides playing Wingspan with Bailey and reading books. Last winter my snowshoes never left the basement.


I’ve skied a lot of “K” over the past 7 winters, but I have so much to learn before racing the Birkie in February. Like most things in life, I taught myself how to skate ski and know next to nothing about technique. I live an active lifestyle, and am in decent shape after training for the Marji Gesick 100 all summer, so I am counting on NORDJÖRK to help take my skate skiing to the next level this winter. I feel confident that my skis will be fast for the race, I just need to make sure that my technique matches the quality of my wax! 


Thanks to my Sisu time last year, I will be skiing in Wave 3 at the Birkie. I’ve never skied 50km in a single go before, so I don’t have a specific time in mind that I am hoping to ski the race in. My goal for the Birkie is to outperform my wave and finish in a time that will qualify me for wave 1 or 2 for the following year.




 


the closer What We're Thinking About.

That we can't believe Bailey DM'd us. Stay tuned for way more fun things with Bailey + Eric as the season progresses!

Takk

Jenn + Kevin





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