The Birkie

You know those canoe races I do? The ones where I can’t beat my Mom?

You know that triathlon where the boys couldn’t beat her even when they worked together?

The training my Mom does for the event this last weekend is no doubt why none of us can catch her all summer long.

For 18 years my Mom has skied the Birkebeiner, a 50 Kilometer ski race from Cable to Hayward. Of course being my Mom she doesn’t just ski it, she does disgusting things like come in third in her age group in a race of more than 8000 participants.

While I do ski I haven’t yet done a Birkie, instead I’ve tagged along with Mom and her friends as a spectator on most of the Birkies in the last ten years.  So this last weekend I drove all by myself to meet up with my brother so we could watch our Mom ski the Birkie, a very cold Birkie.

When Tyler and I got up Saturday morning, we noticed it was a bit chilly.How cold was it you ask?

Too cold for GU that’s how cold.

For those of you not up on your gooey supplements GU is an energy… uhh… goo that athletes can eat during races. It comes in a little foil pack that can be…well… gooed out into their mouth easily delivering a shot of carbohydrates and other important stuff. It helps a person do crazy things like keep skiing for hours in below zero weather.  Often in the Birkie you will see racers staple the GU to their numbered racing bibs so they can grab it and rip it off and eat it without stopping.

On Saturday morning thermometers were at ten below at start time. At that temperature nobody staples on their GU. At ten below they would be GUsicles, nobody wants a GUsicle.

After delivering a hitchhiking skier to the start of the race Tyler and I had  hiked out along the trail at the halfway point to watch for Mom. The first sight Tyler and I had of herwas as she came barreling across the trail at us yelling “Get my GU! Get my GU!”

This raised some questions in our minds.

A: Why she couldn’t get her own GU?

B: Where was the GU? Did she have it? Were we supposed to have it?

C: Were we going to be in trouble later for fumbling the GU feed that we didn’t know we were supposed to be doing?

D: Did the race and the cold do her in? Had the last of her marbles been lost on the trail?

E: If “D” is even a question why do both of us keep contemplating joining the insanity and racing ourselves?

While Tyler and I stared in confusion Mom made it clear that the GU was tucked into the hip of her ski pants and that she needed it out and opened up for her.


Tyler, the dutiful son, dug it out, opened it and looked up to Moms best impression of a hungry baby bird on skis.

I, the not so dutiful daughter, took pictures.

You don’t get to be one of the fastest grandma’s in the Birkie by hanging around with your kids midway through a race.  In seconds she had sucked her GU down and was headed back down the trail, leaving a her son staring at an empty packet of goo wondering what had just happened.

Tyler and I continued to ponder what had happened as we scooted down to Hayward where we were able to catch Mom on the trail one final time as she came across the lake before finishing in town. It wasn’t until later when she had sort of warmed up that we got the answers to our many questions.

A: Her hands were frozen and she knew if she were able to get it out of her pants she’d never get it open

B: It was of course stuffed in her pants so that it wouldn’t freeze, she was expecting us to be there and was watching for us so we could help her out. Poor watchers we had been distracted by one of her high school skiers moments before and would have missed her if she hadn’t come at us yelling!

C: Nope, ever since the time the group of us giving her a personal feed tripped her… twice… so long as she stays on her feet it’s a job well done!

D: It appears some marbles have remained in her head. It’s possible that after a night with the shotski they left, but that’s a whole different issue.

E: I have no idea.

Congrats to Mom and all her friends – Not only did you have great ski’s, but you did it with minimal frostbite!

Anne, as soon as your ready to commit to that babysitting I’ll send in my registration for next year! 🙂

If not I’ll see you at the finish line!

Have fun at worlds!

6 comments on “The Birkie

  1. Johnny says:

    Excellent photos!
    Good job Mary!!

  2. Susie says:

    Great photos and report! Thanks!

  3. Corky says:

    Wooo hoooo!!! Go Grandma!!

  4. Corky says:

    Jessie, what a GUnderful story!!

  5. Uncle Weasel says:

    The rules committee has outlawed the use of GU at the Pewaukee Tri!!!

    I’m proud of my little sister.

  6. Sarah says:

    Way to go, Mary! Good thing you found your little GU-feeders!

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