Fever at the Birkie

Train WreckFebruary 22, 20092

About the Birkie: Celebrating its 36th year, the American Birkebeiner (1-800-USA-BRKE;www.birkie.com), February 19-21, 2009, is the largest and most prestigious cross country ski marathon in North America. Spanning more than 50 kilometers from Cable to Hayward, the Birkie is part of the Worldloppet series of 15 international races, and part of the lives of citizen skiers from around the world. Sponsors of Birkie 2009 include Subaru, Becker Law Office SC, Premier Physical Medicine and Wellness Clinic, Johnson Bank, Sawyer County Record and Superior Publishing, and other businesses throughout the region and country. (Courtesy, www.birkie.com).

7,461 skiers raced in the 36th American Birkebeiner this year in Hayward, Wisconsin. In the womens’ race Rebecca Dussault of Gunnysack, CO won the womens race in 2:26:39.5 while Holly Brooks of Anchorage Alaska surprised everyone just missing the win by a boot with an official time of 2:26:39.6. Kristina Strangberg was ten seconds back in third with a time of 2:26:49.7. With such and exciting finish for Brooks followed by a win at last year’s Tour of Anchorage, it will be pretty tough for Brooks to ignore her cozy amateur status for much longer, especially with an Olympic year looming!

Matt Liebsch of Maple Grove, MN won the men’s 50K with a time of 2:11:47.9 followed by Wisconsin resident Bryan Cook finishing 43 seconds out and Canadian Dan Roycroft another 5 seconds back. “This is it… for all the marbles and jelly beans,” Liebsch wrote on his blog a couple of days before race day, “anything can happen.” His description of the race’s importance only gives us an idea of how happy he is with his performance.

Random Anonymous Coach Musings, Birkie Edition II:  “The Birkie is what happens when you decide to do a lot of something really poorly.”

Random Anonymous Coach Musings, Birkie Edition II: “The Birkie is what happens when you decide to do a lot of something really poorly.” (Courtesy, johnnyklister.com)

Gus Kaeding of Michigan gained the right to say “Yeeaaah, I beat Bjørn Dœhlie in a classic race,” as he beat the man widely regarded as the best cross country skier of all time today, right at the line with times of 3:00:27.8 and 3:00:27.9. The retired Norwegian ski king came to ski this year’s 54K Subaru Classic American Birkebeiner to get a taste of the race phenomenon modeled after the original “Birkebeinerrennet” from his home country. Geir Strandbakke, another Norwegian, finished third in 3:00:56.0.

American circuit regular Martina Stursova of the Czech Republic won the womens’ 54K classic race with a time of 3:26:16.3, followed by Hilary Patzer of St Paul, MN at 3:33:03 and Kelly Skillicorn of Winona, MN at 3:33:30.9.

It starts with a sort of burning sensation…

It starts with a sort of burning sensation… (Courtesy, johnnyklister.com)

A series of “Elite Sprints” were held Thursday in downtown Hayward to flush out the full birkie fever experience. $200, $100, and $50 prizes were awarded to the top male and female sprinters which are listed in descending order; Kevin Hochtl, Colin Mahood, Mark Iverson for the men, and Karin Camenisch, Martina Stursova, Kate Underwood for the women. A relatively small field reserved for top racers, entry into the sprints was made by phone request to the Birkie office.

Meanwhile, stuck somewhere outside the halls of conventional journalism, Johnny Klister dot com continues to offer an alternative (read: very slick) view on life as a nord. He (she?) has some great clips and miscellaneous media like enourmous orphaned double quotes and off-topic but klister-saturated top ten lists only slightly related to the birkie. If you feel so inclined as to divert your attention before….wait! What’s this?!

“I decided it was a good time to take a pull at the front a little after we passed the ‘1k to go’ banner…at some point, race organizers might give an award to the person who works the hardest. Until that day comes, I’ll keep trying to get my foot across the line before anyone else does. I just want to win the damn race, I mean, that’s the goal.”

— Zack Simons on winning the Boulder Mountain Tour (source: johnnyklister.com)

Full Birkie Results:

Men’s 50K Free

Women’s 50K Free

Men’s 54K Classic

Women’s 54K Classic

Men’s Sprint Bracket

Women’s Sprint Bracket

P.S. Great Job Holly! I hope you made it out late that night!

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  • T.Eastman

    February 23, 2009 at 1:09 am

    Duncan again delivers the goods! What do you think about during a ski marathon?

  • nordic_dave

    February 24, 2009 at 10:57 pm


    I spent time with Duncan before and after the race. He is in fact THE definition of a “Jacked up old man”. I think the only difference being the quiet smile of complete satisfaction on his face.

    He also doted on his son while there as well, who I think did well in one of the other races there.

    Cheers, Dave Knoop

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