TIME FLIES WHEN you are having fun. For some people who aren’t all that fond of snow, ice and cold temperatures, winter is not much fun and is a season when time slows to a crawl.

For others, winter may not be the favorite season, but it is, if you should choose to make it that way, definitely a season for outdoor fun. The fun comes in all shapes and sizes.

A group of us began our 2019 winter of fun with a snowshoe trek at Razorback Ridges. The gathering place was a three-sided shelter situated about midpoint on Tim’s Trail; the trail being named after the late Tim Pockat who volunteered much labor in the initial brushing and establishment of the trail. The shelter includes a picnic table, bird feeder, fire ring and a stack of firewood for anyone who would like to enjoy a warm-up and maybe even a picnic.

Our group of better than a dozen people enjoyed all of those things. New Year’s Day was a time to gather for some good cookies, hot dogs, various beverages, a variety of other treats, and a couple hours of sharing stories and memories. The time flew by.

Time is really starting to fly by for me when it comes to getting everything organized for the 17th annual Sayner-Star Lake Lions Club ice fishing tournament on Plum Lake. Talk about having fun, the 250 to 300 anglers who take part every year practically own the word fun. Wherever you go on the ice that day you hear the sound of power augers cutting holes, and the whooping and hollering of fishermen as they run for a flag that might signal a prize-winning fish on the line.

Practically all the groups you visit along the length and width of the lake have grills or cookers of some sort going, with a bunch of venison, various kinds of sausages, top-notch chili and all other manner of goodies ready to eat. I make it a point to visit several groups each year.

I have sampled the likes of Conrad Durski’s bear burgers, Kathy and Larry McCaughn’s fish fries, Dave Worthen’s turtle soup and enough other good stuff to feed an army.

These next few weeks leading up to the tourney will be frenetic at times, as Lions Club members recruit scores of much-appreciated door prizes from area businesses, as Gary Errington sorts through his garage trying to remember where he stored the official measuring board and fish registration blanks, as Dale Buss supervises the ever-popular and amazingly successful Ice Shack Queen pageant and as various other Lions Club members volunteer all the hours it takes to put on an event that has become the club’s largest fundraiser each year. The time flies by.

For me, the next five weeks will fly by like a North Dakota canvasback duck with a 30 mph tailwind as I try to compress a year’s worth of training for the American Birkebeiner into a very short window of time. I thought I retired from the Birkie five years ago after tearing up my shoulder in a downhill crash, but ever the patsy, I finally succumbed to peer pressure from a bunch of old geezer Birkie skiers like myself. My completed entry form was finally wrested from me and now, I find myself many days short of being ready for the Feb. 23 Birkie.

I have been on skis several times already, but the long outings of 20, 30 or more kilometers at a time are still out there waiting for me.

With that ominous race date staring me in the face, the time remaining to get in shape is slipping away faster than lard on a hot griddle. Some year, I always tell myself, I will do things like bike long distances for months, if not all year, ahead of the Birkie. But this year, like so many others, what I try to call training never got off the ground until a few days before Christmas.

When I was young, as in 1984 when I did my first Birkie, I could get away with minimal training, relying instead on youth and strength and, let’s face it, ignorance combined with misplaced confidence to get me through.

Birkie morning dawned that year with the thermometer reading something south of zero after temperatures the day before that reached near 40. The result was a hard, icy course groomed five or six tracks wide for what would be the final year of grooming for diagonal stride skiing only before skate skiing took off the next year.

For the first half of the race from the Duffy’s Field start point to Highway OO, I was doing fairly well. My klister/hard wax combo was holding up and I found myself reaching what was considered the halfway point in just 21⁄2 hours. Granted, though I considered that doing fairly well, I also realized the real elite racers had already finished before I got to that point.

I headed off into the second half of the race without a clue about what was staring me in the face. Racing from Hayward to Telemark Lodge in those days, the second half constituted the monster part of the course.

Shortly after leaving OO, I found myself looking up at what would be the first of many terrible climbs. Suddenly, my strength and confidence began to wane. Snowplowing down icy hills, herringboning every inch of the way up hills, my thighs were burning long before the finish.

My only fall came just 10K from the finish when a cramp the size of Asia tore me up as I carved my skis around a sharp curve at the end of a long downhill run.

I remember thinking, even maybe about to cry like a little baby, that I was about to become a “did not finish” statistic. Fortunately, a frantic couple of minutes spent rubbing and stretching got the pain to go away and after a final hour of ultra-slow trudging, I made it to Telemark, clomped up and over the International Bridge and pushed my way to the finish.

Waiting for me was a posse of friends, all of whom at that moment I wished to shoot dead for talking me into doing the Birkie. But when a volunteer draped my first finishing medal around my neck, six hours and 32 minutes of pain was forgotten. I was hooked.

Now, after 18 Birkies and four 24K Kortelopets under my belt, I find myself fool enough to do it all over again at an age when I should know better. It’s just weeks away. Time flies when you’re having fun or so they say.