The weather application on my iPhone says it’s 4 degrees above zero. But spirits in Northern Wisconsin are high. With full sun and no wind the “Joy Index” makes it feel like 20 as the 10th Annual 24-Hours of Telemark Cross Country ski race gets underway.
“We won’t have a weather cancellation,” said co-race director Harry Spehar during the pre-race briefing. “But if gets to 20 below tonight we’ll postpone until it warms up. We want everyone to be safe out there.”
Skiing laps around a 5-kilometer course along the Birkebeiner Trail in the town of Cable, 275 participants set off on an overnight adventure that’s become a major highlight of the season. Based that the Telemark Lodge male, female and co-ed teams of individuals, pairs, fours and sixes skate or classic in a timed endurance race. The most number of laps skied in divisions of 3, 6, 12 and 24 Hours takes top prizes.
“There’s also bragging rights,” Shear said.
For most it’s badge of honor just to finish this one. Many racers will ski through the night, snatching what food and sleep they can as the hours drag by. Teams relay their course positions between members to ski as many laps as possible in the allotted time. Individual skiers just keep moving the best they can with help of support crews to keep them motivated.
Around 4:30 in the evening racers will switch on headlamps and ski in the dark. At that point it becomes a different kind of race. With only a dozen or so other skiers on the course you’re out there pretty much out their by yourself. As night falls the temperatures will plummet making it harder to abandon a warm bed to brave the cold when your number comes up in the rotation. But in this friendly competition race participants make a night of the event with potluck meals in every room of the hotel and beers in the bar until way into the early morning.
Co-race director Harry Spehar says participant numbers are up significantly from last year. New divisions for racers include family teams of four and a college cup competition with the University of Wisconsin racing against Carlton College of Minnesota. Also new this year is a competition for best costume. Stay linked to the Joy Trip Project feed for pictures and race updates throughout the event. Look for photos on Facebook or follow the Twitter feed with #T24’10 ~ JEM
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