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Three inches of slush and a dreary morning last early November made for an unforgettable rendition of a workout we call â€œSave the Baby Kingâ€ in Sun Valley, Idaho. Such a workout is perfect for building mental toughness, endurance and teamwork and the weather just added to the challenge of the day. Every late fall the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation’s Competition Team comes together and partakes in this event, similar to an adventure race, except on a smaller scale, and in Birkebeiner style.
The workout honors the great Norwegian tale of the Birkebeiners. In 1206, two of Norway’s best skiers helped the baby Prince Hakon flee from a raiding group called Baglers. They skied him safely from Lillehammer to Nidaros through a nasty winter storm lasting several days. The skiers were heroes and Hakon later became king, ruling Norway through a period considered its Golden Years. Today, his rescue is remembered through a grueling cross-country ski race called the Birkebeiner. Skiers even carry an eight-pound pack, symbolizing the weight of the baby.
Last year, coed teams of four also carried weight in â€œSave the Baby King.â€ Instead of a baby, they used a ten pound plate from the weight room, and later a tire, just to up the ante. Teams were also given a rope to use as they saw fit. In perfect Birkebeiner fashion hot blueberry soup was served along with cookies and bananas for the feeds. Their instructions were to load running shoes and bikes into the vans, put on rollerski gear and be prepared for any challenge or obstacle we might throw at them over the course of the day. The rules were simple. Your whole team had to finish together and the only way you could find out where you were going next and how, was to get to the next checkpoint. The legs consisted of a classic roller ski, backcountry run, mountain bike, target shooting with balloons and BB guns, trail running while carrying a car tire, and finally a hatchet throwing contest. While a stacked team of National champions and Scando Cupers somehow lost eachother in the bike, others who chose the teamwork route had much greater success and finished in a little over four hours. The move of the day may have come when one team had its strongest riders pulling weaker ones up the hills in the mountain bike using the rope. The hatchet throw provided a nail-biter finish after a grueling slog over Harpers Hill with the car tire. The day provided for some great adventure, an appreciation of the Birkebeiners, and a fun memorable workout for all. This year there’ll be different legs with new challenges and hopefully some winter weather to make it an epic.
Here are some photos from Save the Baby King 2006:
Ian Havlick gives hatchet throwing a try
Rosie Gilchrist steadiest her rifle
Scotty Phelan and Colin Struthers