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Ski talk: First-timer versus Kortelopet

Online exclusive

Last Friday, Cloquet's Kate Meisner completed her first Kortelopet, the 29-kilometer Nordic ski race that is part of the American Birkebeiner's Birkie Week events. It's a challenging endurance event that requires training, planning, perseverance, skiing skills, and dealing with a lot of other skiers on the trail ... almost 3,000 last Friday.

Meisner posted a solid and satisfying debut, finishing in three hours and seven minutes in the 29K classic race. Starting in Wave 4 this year, her finish time will likely move her up into Wave 2 in the Birkie's pecking order for start line placement next year.

Meisner took time to answer a few questions posed by Pine Knot News writer Tom Urbanski about her experience as a first-time participant in a Birkie event.

PK/TU: First of all, why enter the Kortelopet?

"I have been skiing for quite a while but just started taking lessons two years ago. The lessons really improved my technique, which made me want to ski more, so I decided to start entering casual races. I always thought the Birkie was for faster and more experienced skiers, but some of my friends kept mentioning the Kortelopet, so I decided to try it out."

PK/TU: Leading up to your race, what made you most nervous/anxious about participating?

"I had no idea what to expect. I've never skied that portion of the race course and have never skied with thousands of other racers. Also, I kept hearing stories about broken poles and skis and collisions on downhills. I wanted to finish under 3:30 and with no broken bones or equipment. I'm happy to say I accomplished my goals."

PK/TU: How did things go during your race? Anything interesting before, during, or after?

"The volunteers are amazing. There were three aid stations on the course and these people were somehow handing food and drinks to skiers in motion without spilling anything. After you cross the finish line, a volunteer takes your skis off for you. What service!"

PK/TU: What are one or two of the biggest surprises you had while skiing the race on the famous Birkie Trail?

"One surprise was that the hills were not as terrible as I was expecting. Score one for training on the hilly Pine Valley terrain! The other surprise was how well-groomed the trails were, because there were hundreds of skiers on the trail before me, but the tracks were almost perfect."

PK/TU: How would you describe the event and your overall experience?

"It was so much fun. I can't wait to do it again next year and convince even more people to sign up. It was very well organized, from getting the shuttle bus to the start line, to dropping off your gear bag, to the starting waves lineup, everything moved smoothly."

PK/TU: What would you tell other skiers who are considering participating in a Birkie event?

"Do it! You make it what you want. Treat it as a nice leisurely ski on beautiful trails, or race your heart out. You will get emotional when you crest the top of the hill on Hayward's Main Street and hear thousands of people cheering for you. It was neat to see all abilities and ages of skiers on the trails."

PK/TU: Will you ski the race again, and any thoughts about a full Birkie? What would you do differently, if anything?

"I would absolutely do the Korte next year. The full Birkie is too far for my tastes. Next year I'll have more of a strategy for pacing so I can save more energy for the end. "

Kate Meisner (on left) takes a moment to pose with Debra McDonald at the 2022 Kortelopet race during the American Birkebeiner Week in Hayward, Wisconsin.

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