SANITY HAS PREVAILED, at least for a little while.

Sometime, on a sunny, warm day back on Feb. 22, a certain person decided that no sane person at the age of 70 would subject himself to the rigors of skiing 34 miles over rugged terrain in a single day ever again. Remember these words: never, ever again.

In the weeks and months since then, that particular 70-year-old, soon to be 71, started envisioning going back on his word. He started hallucinating about being a young (at least of heart) skier who could go out there on that treacherous trail again and conquer it with no pain, no strain.

He knew he was lying to himself, but he also knew that, yes, absent a sudden and total collapse of his body, he could somehow go out there and conquer that trek — known as the 55K American Birkebeiner — once again. Would insanity rule?

Fortunately, no. A funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Visions of that Feb. 22 day started stirring through his sometimes addled brain. Sure, there were the good visions of the first 20-some kilometers of the race, which he conquered while skiing at an average pace of more than five minutes per kilometer — much, much faster than he had expected.

The dreaded second leg of the race which featured several long, torturous climbs hadn’t even fazed him. The next leg, though shorter, also featured a goodly number of tough, steep climbs, but even through that segment, his legs and arms kept on striding and pushing. The pace slowed a tad, but not much.

Soon after that, though, disaster began to rear its ugly head. The ambient temperature began a rapid rise, and kick wax that had been working so very well to that point began slipping. He stopped and rewaxed with a warmer kick wax. Progress resumed at a steady, albeit slightly slower pace.

Halfway through the Birkebeiner, the kick wax deserted him completely and with not a single tube of klister wax in sight, he was left to shuffle along, slowly and painfully, “arming” his way to a long, slow finish.

He joined with others suffering the same fate. His race from that point on was one of getting in and out of set tracks, shifting back and forth on the course, trying to find snow offering at least some semblance of grip. He found none.

Exhausted while making the final series of about 4 kilometers of climbing before a last, fast swoop down into a field and beyond to the flat surface of Lake Hayward, his mantra became an insistent one of “Never, never, never again.”

As he had started doing from about 35K into the race and beyond, he started stopping along the trail, taking time to commiserate with other weary skiers doing the same. He counted down the kilometer markers to the finish, at a terribly slow pace. The markers seemed farther and farther apart the longer he got into the race.

He crawled to the finish line, dog-tired, weary of limb and every bone and muscle in his body, thoroughly determined that this would be the last, the very last time, he would do this to himself.

But as they say, time heals all wounds. It almost does. On the fringe of lunacy, as spring moved inexorably closer to summer, he began to forget the pain. He began to dream at night of standing at the Birkebeiner start line again, ready to begin the journey of his 21st race. A proud Birchlegger of 20 Birkie finishes, he began to think of another Birkie as “Why not?”

Then, in the nick of time, by the grace of God, a semblance of sanity returned. In his mind he was no longer feeling his oats. It was more like feeling a need for a large jug of pain pills. It was more like a feeling that he was sane enough to realize he was not 21 anymore.

So as he punched keys on a keyboard, when it came time to punch the key for either a 34-mile Birkebeiner or an 18-mile Kortelopet race, sanity prevailed. The Kortelopet won out.

Yes, he will be at a Kortelopet start line adjacent to Highway O Feb. 26, 2021, along with approximately 3,000 other skiers, young and old. He will not be at the Birkie start line the next day with approximately 6,000 other skiers.

At this time, he is simply amazed that the first two waves of the Birkie skate race are full and that the next two are more than three-quarters full. He is amazed that, in this time of pandemic, more than three-quarters of the first two classic Birkie waves are full. Skiers by the thousands, including this reluctantly sane man, are not letting anything deter them from once again being part of one of the world’s premier cross-country ski races.

Insane, he is not. Sane enough to ski a shorter, but still demanding race? Yes, he is. His money is in. His skis, resting comfortably on a rack, are ready as well. Come Feb. 26, we’ll see how ready he is.