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UW-Superior Registrar takes on the American Birkebeiner
When it comes to outdoor activities, the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus sits in a rather remarkable location.
Six uniquely different state parks can be found just 90 minutes from campus offering opportunities for camping, hiking, or swimming. There are more than 60 miles of hiking trails within the City of Superior, and Grandma’s Marathon is held every June in neighboring Duluth, Minn. Skiing and snowboarding can be found just minutes from campus. And then, of course, there’s Lake Superior. Being near the shore of the greatest Great Lake offers an array of activities nearly as deep as the lake itself.
The ability to spend time outdoors pursuing a number of activities can be a big draw for those attending UW-Superior or even working here. For Jeff Kirschling, Registrar at UW-Superior, it provides great conditions for cross-country skiing and the chance to take part in his first American Birkebeiner.
“I grew up in the Cable, Wisconsin, area, so being around the Birkie most of my life and learning to ski was automatic,” said Kirschling, who has worked at UW-Superior for the past four years. “In high school I was more into downhill skiing, but transitioned to cross country after graduating from college and as a way to get outdoors in the winter.”
The 44th American Birkebeiner, North America’s largest cross-country ski marathon, will get underway Saturday morning. Participants begin in Cable on a beautiful and challenging course before finishing in downtown Hayward, Wisconsin. At 50 kilometers for skate skiers and 55 kilometers for classic, the race attracts more than 10,000 individuals from throughout the world.
“The atmosphere – all of the different stories and backgrounds people bring to the race is amazing,” said Kirschling, a skate skier for the past 10 years. “How someone from the south who doesn’t have the ability to ski before the race, but trains somehow and races amazes me.”
For Kirschling, the commitment has been intense. Since January 1, he has skied more than 200 miles and run over 100. He’s accustomed to the training process for the race, as he intended to participate last season only to have the Birkie cancelled due to poor trail conditions.
“I’m inspired by my son Alex, who will be finishing his fourth Birkie,” said Kirschling. “He is a much more accomplished skier in the third wave, but he has been a huge inspiration given the fact I taught him how to ski in his youth. Role reversal – now on the ski trail he waits for me.”
With the chance to take part in his first race, Kirschling has managed to check one item off his bucket list while keeping his goals attainable.
“Mainly I just want to finish since it’s my first time and I will be in the seventh and last skate wave,” he said. “I’m more advanced than that wave, but I’ll pay my dues and try to navigate round the other skiers as much as I can. It will depend on conditions, but if I can finish under five hours I’ll be happy. I’m going to take it all in and enjoy the day. My wife Lisa is my biggest supporter, so I’ll look forward to seeing her and my son cheering me on as I finish. Depending how I feel, I might even detour over to them and have a sip of beer before I cross the finish line in downtown Hayward.”