It’s coming, that one special day of the year when I have to work extraordinarily hard to not knock trays of cookies from the hands of extremely nice people.
I know what you’re thinking, those of you unfamiliar with my tale: “Shouldn’t not knocking trays of cookies from anyone’s hands be just, kind of, something you do as a decent human being?”
Unfortunately, things don’t always go exactly as everyone has planned.
I was approaching halfway into my first American Birkebeiner when the hunger began to set in. I started in the back wave that year, 2016, because that’s where they put the folks who have never skied a Birkie before and don’t have a qualifying time from a different cross country skiing race fast enough to move them to an earlier wave. My wave started a bit after 10 a.m., which put it at about noon, lunch time.
I hit the next feed zone and grabbed a bite to eat. As I was about to leave, a volunteer offered a cookie. A cookie seemed like a great idea, so I reached for one. As I did, one of my skis slipped slightly out from under me.
I apparently swing my arms wildly when I lose my balance.
With the swinging of my arm, my hand came down hard on the tray of cookies, knocking it from the volunteer’s hand and sending a couple dozen cream-filled, calorie-dense treats to the snow below.
I apologized. She salvaged a ground cookie (pickiness disappears after a couple Birkie hills), told me not to worry about it, and sent me on my way.
So this year, on Feb. 22, I will set off on skis from Cable with the goal of arriving in Hayward several hours later having not knocked a tray of cookies from the hands of a volunteers.
As recent ski seasons go, this one has been good. We’re a couple weeks out from the Birkie, and there is no checking the weather forecasts and hoping for a late miracle of a snowfall to hit and allow the 30-plus mile race to be salvaged. It’s been a bit mild at times, but even the crossing of the lake in the final run-up into Hayward seems, at this point, likely to be in order.
I’ve been skiing pretty regularly since before Christmas, and in my brief time as a Birkie participant, this is by far my most successful and consistent ski season. Last year, we didn’t even have snow until February, and then I spent more time shoveling it than skiing on it. The year before that, I had a solid Birkie but only one attempted ski before January, and that one only lasted a mile. The year before that, Birkie was no-snowed out.
While, with a couple weeks to go before the race, I’ve already had a pretty good ski season, my balance hasn’t always been perfect. It usually takes me a few times out each year before I remember that a skier doesn’t have to fall down every time they’re on the snow. And I had one crash in late December that my body didn’t react as well to as it might have 20 years ago.
But things seem to be coming together fairly well. The snow has weathered a couple warm stretches, and we seem to be getting just enough new snow to cover up whatever patches of ice those warm stretches leave behind. Soon, I’ll be checking the weather hoping for a nice race day instead of checking it and hoping to not see any prolonged warm stretches.
Between now and the start of the American Birkebeiner Feb. 22, I’ll continue to do everything I can think of that might help improve my chances of completing 31 exhausting miles without slapping trays of treats to the ground.