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Bailey + Eric: The BIRKIE Update

Wow, what a "winter". This year's epic snow failure made the good nordies at the American Birkebeiner get creative with course (and vibe) setting that still brings together a collective of cross-country skiers to do the sport we love. It doesn't come without some massive disappointments for skiers who had BIRKIE goals - so let's see what Bailey + Eric have to say about shifting mindsets when things don't go quite as expected.

With that, let's get to it.


bailey + eric

BAILEY: The party ski

Last May, when I messaged NORDJÖRK on Instagram and signed up for my first Birkebeiner, I had a very different idea of what this winter would look like.

First of all, I pictured snow. It turns out, not even that is a guarantee in Duluth anymore! Second of all, I pictured months of intensive training, skiing 4-5 times per week, living and breathing the nordie lifestyle.

It turned out pretty much the opposite. We shoveled exactly once this whole winter. We were able to ski on our local trails with natural snow for about one week total. We spent much more time than we imagined skiing up and down and around and around and around the 1-2km loop that our local ski hill could blow snow for. I worked. A lot. We might have bought a house? We spent our limited free time running, biking, telemark skiing, playing games with friends, and reading. Our skiing came in spurts when time and conditions allowed. Our first ski race of the year was canceled, and now the BIRKIE has been shortened to a 30k race, completed by doing three 10k loops.

My mindset around the BIRKIE has shifted, originally I viewed it as an opportunity to test my physical limits and Nordic skiing ability, and now I view it as an opportunity to test my mental flexibility and ability to adapt!

Instead of skiing for time or place, I am going to ski this Birkebeiner for FUN! I'm going to wear glitter on my face, sweat too much in the 41 degree weather, feel my legs ache as they push through mashed potato snow, and smile because I'll be having fun doing something just a little bit ridiculous. It's going to be a party ski!

I think of Jessie Diggins often as I ski (who doesn't) and the message behind her face glitter. A reminder to have fun and to give it all you've got, because the outcome isn't what matters most, but the journey to get there. My first BIRKIE journey didn't go as planned, but I still became more involved in the Nordic community, learned an unbelievable amount about technique, became infinitely more comfortable with V1, and was able to watch a Cross-Country Skiing World Cup in person on USA soil! I love Nordic skiing more than ever, and I can't wait to ski a ridiculous race with a bunch of other ridiculous nordies in just a few days!


bailey + eric

ERIC: I'll be wearing jorts

It's not going to be the BIRKIE weekend that we expected, but it’s the BIRKIE weekend that we get. Duluth had about a week of “winter” this year where there was enough natural snow to take rock-skis out on our favorite trails, otherwise the only skiing to be had was the hamster-wheel loop of manmade snow at Spirit Mountain. Up the mountain...down the mountain. Up the mountain, and back down.

I’ve felt the whole spectrum of emotions leading up to this weekend - excitement, disappointment, dread, gratitude. There were times when I felt like writing the whole thing off, like when it rained in January.

But then there were other times when I would get in a groove and feel motivated to keep skiing, to work on my V2 and the timing on my V1, regardless of the conditions.

Now that the race is days away, I’ve settled on excited. It’s going to be a fun day of cross-country skiing the Elite wave is going to be wild with Diggins and Schumacher and all of the other racers from the Loppet last weekend, and I’m grateful that I’ll be able to watch them go before lining up for wave three. I’ll be wearing glitter and probably jorts, making the most of the warm weather. I feel very little pressure in “nailing” the wax since times don’t count this year, so that’s nice. Not a lot of premium wax services at the ski shop for this year’s BIRKIE.

Coming into this winter I was so, so motivated to train and work towards a good time at the race, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being more than a little disappointed in the amount of skiing that I was able to do. I’m grateful for the 1km loop at Spirit Mountain, but it’s just not the same as getting lost in the woods, skiing 22km loops up the North Shore without seeing another skier. Maybe next year.

But for this year, I’m going to keep making the most of what’s there. Commuting by bike, skiing if there’s snow, mountain biking if there’s not, and doing my part to consume less, drive less, and take intentional steps to reduce my role in climate change.


the closer What We're Thinking About.

What a bummer it is the BIRKIE isn't happening the way everyone had hoped but - the resiliency and mindsets of Bailey + Eric are inspiring. Hot on the heels of the FIS COOP World Cup event we are trying to catch our breath, find some sleep, snow to ski (which we haven't done in over a week), a few heavy weights to lift, some veggies to roast and in general - reclaim something of our normal lives that won't wreck havoc on our bodies, minds and guts.

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