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Active All Year Round—Winter, Too!

Two People on Skis at a Finish Line

Eli and his friend at the Book Across the Bay,

I was asked to explain how I am “living life at 100%” in the depths of winter here in northern Wisconsin.

Silent sports and endurance racing has always been an important part of the warmer months for me, having been a competitive swimming since fifth grade and now into my 31st year as a runner.

Eli at Brule River Loppet last year,

Eli at Brule River Loppet last year

I was looking for something more active than ice fishing to get me through the winter, so in 2012 I took my Christmas bonus to CyclovaXC and bought a set of cross country skis and taught myself to ski, with my sights on the American Birkebeiner. The “Birkie” is the largest cross country ski race in North America and starts in Cable and finishes on Main Street in Hayward. 

The skate ski course is 30 miles of relentless hills and have become the centerpiece of my winter training every year since. Some of my favorite winter days each year are spent with friends on all-day ski workouts on the Birkie trail, soaking up the scenery of this world class trail that’s right in our backyard.

Our family stays active all year, so it was just a matter of time before the kids would be joining us on the trails, including some fun 5K ski racing at the Brule River Loppet, and more recently as we skied the Book Across the Bay race. This event is a 10K race from Ashland to Washburn across Lake Superior at night, lit entirely by hundreds of luminaires, and complete with a huge tent at the finish line with a live band and plenty of refreshments and chili for the finishers. Each year around 4,000 people complete the course and show Old Man Winter who’s the boss.

Person on motorbike in snow.

Tuscobia Winter Ultra 80

This year I decided to enter the world of “winter ultras,” which are long distance races, largely self-supported, either by bike, foot or ski. The Tuscobia 80 was my race of choice – 80 miles from Park Falls to Rice Lake on the Tuscobia trail. Most weekends this past fall/winter I could be found pedaling my fully loaded bike (the race requires racers to carry a zero degree sleeping bag, bivy sack, sleeping pad, camp stove, fuel, kettle, 3,000 spare calories of food; and all of your necessary food, water and clothes) for 8+ hours on the Gandy Dancer Trail from Danbury to Luck and back to prepare for the race. 

Race day came. The first half of the race was in daylight and the second half was at night. It included a 4.5 hour stretch of riding alone and not seeing another racer – a truly unique experience. It took me almost 13 hours of pedaling through the beautiful winterscape to make it to the finish line.

To me, “living life at 100%” means staying active all year round, never being afraid to expand into new activities and continue to set goals and improve each year.

Besides, we rarely have problems with crowds, high humidity or mosquitoes during the winter months!

Dan Campion
Danbury, Wisconsin