Enjoying the Holidays in Iowa

This year, Jeanne, Nathan and I went to Iowa to spend a few days with Jeanne's family. This year was certainly a white Christmas- the biggest blizzard of the decade blew for three days while we were there.

I went out for my 10 to 15 mile jogs. The wind was biting and all exposed skin hurt. I could have easily made an excuse to not run, but as I explained in other posts… if I started doing that, well then I wouldn't run all winter.

Runners are an infrequent sight here, even during pleasant weather. Pickups slowed down and the drivers looked at me quizzically. I can only wonder what they must've thought.

One woman slowed down, opened her window and asked if I was OK. She was sincerely worried that my vehicle had broken down and I needed a ride. For someone unprepared, death by hypothermia is a real possibility.

 I replied, "Thanks! I'm OK," although whether my sanity was- well, that's another question!




















We also brought our X-C skis and snowshoes. I went out cross country skiing with Sue (Jeanne's sister) and Steve. It was COLD but nevertheless we had a great time.  As long as we kept moving, we felt good. As soon as we stopped, however, the frigid winds chilled us only after only a few moments and we had to start moving again.

It's difficult to drag oneself outside on such days when everyone else is inside where its warm. However, there is no better way to experience the outdoors than on foot or on skiis or snowshoes. Although desolate, even forbidding, winter on the prairie is one of the most beautiful seasons of the year. 


Most of my time exercising I spend trail running, hiking and/or training for future ultramarathons. Cross country skiing is good for cross training however. Many ultrarunners who reside in the north country do cross country ski races in the winter to maintain CV fitness and try something different during the off season.

It is excellent cardiovascular training, exceeded only by swimming.  Some of the athletes with the highest ever recorded VO2s have been cross country ski racers. X-C skiing is essentially non-impact (as long as you don't hit a tree or fall off an embankment!) and uses slightly different muscles than running. I could feel it in my groin muscles the next day.

There is a X-C ski race in Wisconsin, the American Birkebeiner  or "Birkie" which I've always wanted to do.  It is a 50 kilometer X-C ski race that is the largest, by number of participants, in North America. Up to 9,000 ski this race every February.  

The Birkie is named after the soldiers who rescued Prince Haakon during the Norwegian Civil War in 1206. They were called “Birkebeiners” for the protective birch bark leggings they wore. The two Viking warriors, Torstein and Skervald,  skied more than 50 kilometers through rugged mountains and forested terrain smuggling the infant son of King Syverresson and Inga of Vartieg from Lillehammer to safety in the town of Trondheim. The rescued prince became one of the most popular kings in Norwegian history. The Birkebeiner soldiers became a Norwegian symbol of courage, perseverance and character in the face of adversity- all of the characteristics and values that we modern ultra-endurance athletes hold dear.

I won't be able to do Birkie this year; I have the 3 Days of Syllamo multi-day footrace coming up in March which I am training for- but hopefully I will do Birkie someday.



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