Bio: Mohr, Jim - Competes in Ski Marathons (Feb 2019)
Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon
Surnames: Mohr, Wise, Friedel, Weyer
----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 2/13/2019
Local Man Competes in Ski Marathons (Mohr – 2019)
Local Man Competes in Ski Marathons, Shares the Sport With His Family
Jim Mohr celebrates after completing his 39th American Birkebeiner last year. On Feb. 23, he plans to compete in his 40th race. (Contributed photo)
By Valorie Brecht
Rev. James D. Mohr has shown a great degree of commitment to cross-country skiing. On Jan. 26, he completed his 20th Noquemanon Ski Marathon, which ran 51 kilometers (31.69 miles) between Ishpeming and Marquette, Michigan. This was the first half of Mohr’s winter 2019 skiing goal.
Despite being a cold day with a high of about zero, “Several hundred skiers braved the weather to ski this beautiful course through the forests, over hills and on several lakes,” Mohr wrote.
Mohr, a Neillsville resident, said that before he started skiing the Noquemanon he thought Marquette was “the end of the world” because it was so far away. However, when on of his daughters moved there, he decided to try the race, which was in its second year, and got hooked. He has completed the race each year although his daughter has since moved to warmer locations.
“I’m never one of the fastest skiers and actually finish toward the end of the pack,” said Mohr.
This year, Mohr said, he completed the course with his slowest time ever at seven hours. He trailed three other skiers in the age 70-74 classical style division.
“Skiing the course this year was like skiing on sand paper with each stride requiring significant energy out put and each glide producing very little distance.”
Mohr said the course had many difficult “technical” hills, some of which he had to double-pole down. He fell once during the race.
“I’m still feeling it,” he admitted.
Even so, said Mohr, he enjoyed the experience.
“It was still fun skiing with plenty of lake effect snow on a beautiful sunny day,” he said.
Upon finishing, Mohr was awarded an engraved glass beer mug for completing 20 races.
Mohr’s interest in cross-country skiing goes back further than 20 years, however. He has participated in the American Birkebeiner Ski Marathon between Cable and Hayward almost every year since 1977 (with the exception of one year when he traveled to Germany as an exchange pastor and competed in a few ski races there).
The Birkebeiner Skate (or “Birke” as it’s called) is a 50-kilometer race. Founded by Tony Wise in 1973, it started with 35 skiers and has grown to more than 10,000 skiers. On Feb. 23, Mohr plans to complete the second half of his winter 2019 goal by racing in his 40th Birkebeiner.
Mohr was initially hesitant to try such a race.
“When we moved back to [Janesville,] Wisconsin from St. Louis in 1971, I was not enthused about returning to snow and cold, particularly when I looked out upon ice-covered Lake Mendota in April and wondered when spring would come,” Mohr wrote.
“However, the next winter as I listened to the radio, a commercial for Petrie’s Sports in Madison offered a verbal picture of ‘The Hill’ and invited listeners to join the growing number of people strapping on wooden boards and venturing out in the snow on cross-country skis. It piqued my interest.”
“I was intrigued and rented a pair from the Hoofer’s Club at UW-Madison. After trying them out in the park near out home, I ventured one Saturday to the La Grange trails in the southern Kettle Moraine near Whitewater. The snow was thin, and the tracks weren’t very deep, but for southern Wisconsin the conditions seemed just fine.
“Wearing jeans and my heavy ski jacket I awkwardly slid along the rails, drawing bemused notice from members of the Milwaukee Nordic Ski Club, who moved effortlessly in their knickers and narrow racing skis. There were hills and not knowing how to put my weight forward I fell numerous times on that first significant hill before finally making it down all the way. It was enough to begin my addiction to cross-country skiing.”
Mohr and his wife began regularly going out skiing on the Kettle Morraine. One day, they happened to get into conversation with a fellow skier who told them about the Birkebeiner.
“I can’t ski that far,” Mohr thought at first. But he couldn’t stop thinking about the race, and gradually warmed up to the idea. In the fall of 1976, he decided to register for the 1977 race.
When it came to be race time, Mohr and his family made the long journey north. They didn’t have much money, but some friends of theirs from Rice Lake let them stay with then on the trip up and a pastor in Cable allowed Mohr and his family to stay in an apartment he owned.
Mohr said the race was quite the adventure. Despite the rest stops provided along the race route every five miles or so stocked with hot drinks and snacks, Mohr quickly became fatigued.
Around the halfway point, “You could have buried me right next to the trail,” said Mohr. “I was so fatigued and sore as I had ever been in my life, but then I thought about the effort we had made to get to Cable and about that Birkebeiner medal awaiting any finisher at the Lumberjack Bowl in Hayward. One way or another I was going to make it.”
Mohr did make it and ended up returning for the next race, and the next.
“Now it’s become a tradition,” he said.
Mohr is a part of the “Spirit of 35” group, named in recognition of the 35 original Birkebeiner skiers. Those who have skied in 35 or more Birkies get a red bib.
We get to start at the front of the race so all other skiers can race past us,” Mohr said.
Mohr is a part of the Birchleggings Club as well, a group for those who have participated in at least 20 Birkies. The club gives awards for 20, 30, and 40 years.
To be ready to compete year after year, Mohr has to stay in shape. In the summertime, he goes mountain biking at the Levis Mound trails or the Listeman Arboretum. Then in the wintertime, whenever he can, he’ll go ski for at least an hour, sometimes two.
There’s a lot of logistics to think about before the race, such as what type of wax to use on one’s skis and what type of clothing to wear. Mohr said a person doesn’t want to wear too much clothing because it’s easy to get overheated, but at the same time one needs enough clothing to provide adequate warmth in harsh temperatures.
The winter weather can be unforgiving. After one particularly cold race, Mohr said his fingers felt numb for a whole month afterward. For this year’s Noquemanon, Mohr wore a special cream to protect his face.
After all the preparations have been made, when it comes down to it, the hardest part of the race is the endurance, Mohr said. Mohr tries to keep a positive attitude throughout the race.
“Mostly I tell myself, ‘I’m going to finish this,’” said Mohr. “Sometimes I sing to myself.”
Mohr focuses on his technique, one stride at a time. “I took lessons one year at Telemark [the resort where the Birkebeiner takes place] and the instructor told us ‘Swing your hips. Be like Marilyn Monroe and swivel your hips,’ so I always think of that,” he said.
When the race is done, there is time to connect with other skiers over a shared passion.
“I meet friends each year,” said Mohr.
We always compare notes and ask each other, ‘How did you do?’”
Those friends come from nearby and abroad. Mohr’s friends Bonnie and Ray Weyer from Loyal ski the Birkie each year. One year, Mohr met an old friend from high school at the race. Another year, he met an Austrian ice sculptor. The two struck up a friendship, and in subsequent years, Mohr would practice speaking German with him at the race.
Mohr’s entire family now stays together in a condo the week of the race. They too, have enjoyed the camaraderie cross-country skiing has provided.
“They found out that they tend to have a lot in common with the other ski families – the same values,” said Mohr.
Mohr has enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with his spouse, children and grandchildren. Mohr introduced the sport to his children as kids. They stepped away from it for a while, but As adults, they’ve taken it up again and gotten their own kids involved.
Mohr’s son Kurt will compete in the full Birkebeiner with him on Saturday. His daughter and son-in-law, Jenny and Elliott Friedel will compete in the 23-kilometer Kortelopet race the day before. Additionally, four of his grandchildren plan to compete in the Barneberkie youth ski tour Thursday.
Cross-country skiing has been a way for the family to stay active together, and Mohr is glad for this.
He’s also grateful to have learned the value of perseverance and for the sense of accomplishment he feels after finishing each race.
Upon crossing the finish line of his first Birkebeiner, “At that moment, all of the agony seemed worth it,” said Mohr. “I felt a sense of relief and exhilaration at achieving this goal.”
Cross-country skiing is a family affair for the Mohr family. Here, Jim Mohr skis at the Greenbush Trails near Plymouth with his daughter Jenny’s family: (l-r) Elliott Friedel, Elise Friedel, Avalyn Friedel, Mohr and Jenny Friedel. (Contributed photo)
© Every submission is protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.
Show your appreciation of this freely provided information by not copying it to any other site without our permission.
A site created and
maintained by the Clark County History Buffs