Birchlegger Reflections

Loppet World Cup and Birkie Highlights

Gus Schumacher skiing into victory at the 10 Km Loppet World Cup
Kim and her daughter Hannah skiing with their Norwegian friends

A few days after returning from the Endurance Adventures Methow Valley trip we hosted our friends from Norway who came to watch the Loppet World Cup and race in the 50th American Birkebiener race. Two years prior, our family had traveled to Norway to stay with our friends and compete in the Birken race. I coached the families son Trym four years ago at Armstrong High School while he was a foreign exchange student in Minnesota.

Since then he has traveled back one time with his father to stay at our cabin in Hayward and raced in the American Birkebeiner event. This year’s visit was the first time his mother came to Minnesota to see where he ski lived and ski raced. Our family was excited to cheer side by side with our Norwegian friends at the historical 2024 World Cup event right in our back yard!

My birthday landed on Saturday’s World Cup sprint race events, and it was one of the most memorable birthdays I have ever had. I cannot express how exciting it was to cheer on Jesse Diggins along with all the American ski racers at our local Trailhead venue! It felt like a ski reunion party with 40,000 spectators! I was honored to be a part of the awards ceremony followed by the close up view of the final sprint races. 

 Our Norwegian friends were impressed by how many American fans came out to cheer and shared that we had more spectators than Norway receives for most of their homeland World Cup race events. World Cup Biathlon races have become the new focus for many Norwegian fans due to the excitement of the sport. Our Norwegian family was also impressed with the quality of our spectators compared to the typical Norwegian fans which usually revolves around excessive alcohol consumption.

Following each World Cup race event, we would return home to watch the Norwegian race coverage with our friends. They would interpret what the Norwegians thought about the venue, races, and fans. They shared the Twitter posts of Kablo, stating how much he enjoyed racing in the U.S.A. and would hopes to come back again soon for future competitions.

When Gus Schumacher won the 10 Km skate race the Norwegian commentators were completely stunned. It was like a bomb went off that nobody suspected would happen. Many years of hard work on Gus Schumacher’s part, along with loud and crazy fans provided a well-deserved victory on home turf. 

Kim and Hannah enjoying the Birkie Trail in 2023

For the past four years, my daughter Hannah Rudd has skied on the BSF Team under coach Andy Newell. Her goal was to race in both the Canadian and U.S. World Cup races this year. A bulged disc injury in August halted her training for a few months, and she was not able to recover quickly enough to be competitive in the Super Tour qualifying races.

It was heartbreaking to watch her disappointment, but I am so proud of her hard work and positive attitude throughout the entire injury. Even though it was difficult, she came to support her BSF teammates and long-time LNR ski club friends who were racing in both the sprints and distant World Cup events. It was pretty amazing to cheer on past LNR athletes Renea Anderson, Zak Ketterson, Margie Freed and Michaela Keller-Miller race on the same course that they competed on during their high school years.

Rosie Brennan skiing with a group of youth and adults at the Share Winter Play Day!
Rosie Brennan with coach Kim, Mary and Mindy

Following the World Cup race events, I was privileged to partner with Rossignol for the “women’s ski with “Olympian Rosie Brennan” event. Over one hundred youth and adult women attended the event held in conjunction with the Share Winter Play Day. Rosie rotated through different coaching groups to provide technique tips on cornering, starting fast and hop skate skills.

Participants enjoyed selfies with Rosie along with free ski ties and buffs provided by the event sponsors Rossignol and Endurance Adventures. Having this event inspired many young girls who desire to continue to chase the dream of skiing in a World Cup race event.

After the charged up weekend of World Cup events, we headed to Hayward for the Birkie festivities. The last few Birkie races, Hannah and I have been able to race in the same women’s elite skate wave. This was Hannah’s 4th and my 26th Birkie race. The day of the race I was sporting the famous purple bib granted to those who have skied the Birkie twenty years. In the past I have not enjoyed wearing this bib, since it made me feel very old. While on the start line, I gazed out at the other elite women competitors, and realized there were only a few women wearing the same Birchlegger bib.

Kim Rudd racing in her 2024 Birchlegger bib!

I was a bit intimidated, since this was only my second race of the season due to all the prior races being cancelled. I had also been struggling the last few years with several injuries (concussion, shoulder neuropathy and hamstring tear) which took a toll on my confidence.

Before the race I had been quite nervous about having so many spectators watching the event, but as soon as the gun went off, I was stoked to be cheered on by thousands of fans. I remember skiing by a fan with a chainsaw as I climbed up to the elevator shaft along with loud cheers from both strangers and friends. The first two loops my body felt on fire as I traded taking the lead in my pack of women. Spectators cheered me on shouting out ” Way to go Birchlegger“! For the first time, I felt privileged and proud to wear my purple bib.

Hannah Rudd in the top elite chase group!

On the third loop my skis caught the ice field on the famous snake turn. Another competitor crashed into me, making it even more difficult to get off of the ground. When I finally was able to stand up, the crowd cheered me on like crazy! I had no idea how my daughter Hannah was doing, since I was miles behind.

Upon finishing the race, I heard the great news of her placing fourth overall. I was a very proud mama! Following the race some of my former Armstrong Alumni skiers came over to our cabin to celebrate with a cold plunge into Upper Twin Lake.

Kim, Hannah and Craig Rudd

The following day was just as memorable cheering on my daughter Hannah along with our Norwegian friends as they raced in the classic event. Hannah and her boyfriend Reid Goble both took the overall Classic Birkie titles. Following the elite races we cheered on more classic waves and enjoyed a hot sauna at the celebration area.

The 50th American Birkebeiner had exceeded all my expectations. I usually do not enjoy loop race events, but this one will go down as my most enjoyable, fun and memorable race ever! I am grateful to the Birkie Foundation for all the work they did to provide such a magical race experience for all ages and abilities.

Trym, Karl and Marte at the 00 Trailhead

After saying goodbye to both my daughter and our Norwegian friends, I suddenly had the post Birkie blues. It felt like coming down into a dark valley after being on a two week mountain top celebration. I realized after both events, how lucky I am to live in the Midwest with such a wonderful ski community. Luckily, I can continue to enjoy this same community feeling every year as I coach at the Loppet Foundation and ski with my long time friends in Hayward.

Kim Rudd with the Women’s Wednesday LNR training group!

Creating opportunities for people to come together and share a common love for the sport of skiing is what Endurance Adventures is all about. I have truly been blessed by meeting some amazing people on all of the past trips to Canada, Washington, Alaska and Arkansas. I look forward to connecting with both new and old friends who are now apart of the Endurance Adventure’s extended family!

Kim Rudd