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Our most recent training video (I’m the third skier)

Five a.m. wake-up calls are becoming familiar to me lately. The funny thing is that I am not a morning person, and the only time I’ve been known to get up that early is for a colonoscopy or to ski the American Birkebiener each February. But now I’ve been waking up at 5 to train with my new ski group, Team Birkie, a program that seems designed not only to teach us to ski the Birkie better, but to practice waking up for the race.

Team Birkie is a master’s ski group formed by some skiers who wanted to help support our local skier Matt Liebsch, who won the Birkie in 2009. Through our membership fees, we’re helping him cover travel costs for the training and racing he needs to do to pursue his dream of making the 2014 Olympic ski team. And he is helping us pursue our goals of becoming better skiers — and ultimately to ski a faster Birkie.

As an older guy who sometimes needs extra motivation to keep from doing the same training year after year, I had my concerns about joining the group. I weighed the commitment of time and money with the rewards of a more inspired training routine. I didn’t know when I joined that we’d be meeting so early, but breaking from my old training regimen and embracing the chill before sunrise has given me more than just better ski technique.

I’ve gotten to roller ski by headlamps before dawn and do two-hours of intervals before I’m usually awake, all while learning from an Olympic-caliber skier with great knowledge and ability. And I’m enjoying the rewards of these new challenges, of being accountable to my group and myself, and to helping a talented skier pursue his aspirations.

Plus, for an afternoon person, I’ve seen some beautiful sunrises along the way.

Thoughts to share?

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