Book Review: Beyond Birkie Fever

Beyond Birkie Fever by Walter Rhein

Beyond Birkie Fever by Walter Rhein is his personal experiences in marathon cross country skiing. He has written at least five novels in the fantasy genre, something people my age would call D&D type books, which I will need to look at. He was born and currently owns a bike and ski shop in Wisconsin. Rhein stumbled across my blog and asked if I was willing to review the book. I didn’t make the connection immediately until he said he owned a bike shop and that one of the legends of the Birkies was recently killed by a car while riding his bicycle. That knocked it up on my to read list.

The Birkie, the 41st annual Birkebeiner for 2014, is a marathon cross-country skiing race through rolling hills of Wisconsin. The race began in 1973, inspired from the Birkebeiner skiers who took the the king’s son to safety in the Norwegian civil war in 1206. Norway revived the tradition as a race in 1932, burdening the participants with a carrying a non-food item weight to symbolize the the prince. Apparently bonking and the temptation to eat the “prince” may have been too strong for many. Tony Wise started the tradition in the United States in 1973 with thirty five participants the event has grown to 13,000 participants, including the author.

Rhein’s story starts early in his life with a growing attachment to skiing and equipment and training. Skiing, I have learned, is much like cycling. There is the whole right equipment thing: right clothing, ski wax (tires), roller skiing (trainer or rollers), cross-training, and getting ready for “the season.” He captures the obsession with a clear, but you can feel the excitement, writing style. I was a bit skeptical when I first picked up the book. Skiing? It is 111 degrees in Dallas as I write this. The writing style is catchy and keeps the reader interested. Obsession is obsession and easy to relate to. From being flying to Australia, only to get sick, and race sick; to “hey why not run a marathon”. Misery sometimes makes the best memories.

Beyond Birkie Fever is definitely a fun read no matter what your opinion of skiing. There is a common ground for athletes of all sports and all levels and it can be found in this book. Highly recommended for all who ski, bike, run, swim, hike, climb mountains, or those who want to look into the the mind of those with a healthy obsession.

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